Feb 20 2007

Shelby defends need for BRAC

Decatur Daily

By Holly Hollman


There is a need for missile defense against countries like Iran, a country U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby said is determined to have nuclear weapons, and he said there is a need to completely fund BRAC.

Missile defense and the federal Base Realignment and Closure process are of interest to this area not only in terms of national defense, but also economically.

Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, said at a community meeting in Athens on Monday, there will be future challenges with Iran over nuclear weapons, and that Russia and China are "aiding and abetting" the country.

Redstone Arsenal conducts research and development on missile defense. The 28,000-acre Army base will benefit from the BRAC process, which will move 4,600-plus jobs, including those related to missile defense, to the arsenal. It is a six-year relocation plan.

Cuts in the BRAC budget have local officials, such as Athens Mayor Dan Williams, concerned about delays. Cities like Athens and Decatur hope to benefit from the influx of military families and opening of military supply and support companies.

Shelby told Williams that BRAC has gotten less than half the money needed from Congress, but that, "I believe we will get it."

The Senate did not restore $3.1 billion in BRAC funding cuts in the spending bill, but the Senate could address those cuts in the supplemental bill, which includes funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shelby said it will cost $350 million to $600 million to handle the construction needs at Redstone for the BRAC job transfers.

Shelby said he supports BRAC and missile defense because the "struggle with the Islamic world is not an issue that will go away when the troops do come home from Iraq."

He said America cannot "police the world" but must protect its interest. If protecting that interest includes invading another country, then our military presence should be great.

"The Army, Navy and Marines are too small," Shelby said. "We need to build our numbers up, so that if we do have to go in, let's go in overwhelmingly. That was our failure in Iraq."

Shelby voted Saturday against Senate Democrats who wanted to pass a non-binding resolution opposing the troop surge in Iraq. The Democrats were unable to get the necessary votes.

Shelby agreed that there have been mistakes in Iraq, but added that the mistake was not sending 200,000 troops four years ago.

"We did not plan for the insurgency such as we now have," Shelby said. "But as long as our troops are in harm's way, I will never vote to cut off support for troops. We need to stabilize Iraq, then pull out, not run out."