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MONDAY AUGUST 29, 2005
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EDITORIAL

BRAC insulates painful decisions from politics

In a pork-barrel political culture, once in a while someone comes along to remind us that public money is supposed to be spent where it is needed.

Former President Carter, who lost his last election long ago, thrust himself into that role by lobbying successfully to save the Naval Submarine Base New London in Connecticut — at the expense of his native Georgia.

For Georgians, it was an unwelcome gesture. "What was he thinking?" Gov. Sonny Perdue asked, reflecting the chagrin many in his state felt. Closing New London would have shifted six submarines and 3,367 jobs to the Kings Bay base in Georgia. U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, whose district includes Kings Bay, said, "You just hate to have an ex-president, a Navy guy and a Georgian going against the home team."

Mr. Carter said that in agreeing with him, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission acted "on the merits of the case and not due to any political influences." He said Kings Bay would "continue to provide increasing services to our nation's defense."

The ex-president described exactly what BRAC is supposed to do: take decisions about closing military bases out of politics and make smart use of resources from a national perspective, overriding localities' economic interests where necessary. Of course, you can't remove politics entirely, but BRAC provides a degree of insulation.

Because of BRAC, congressmen, senators, governors and others must work hard to find merit-based justifications for retaining or expanding bases in their home districts and states. As painful as base closings become for some localities, this approach is in the nation's best interest.

Thus, when BRAC decides — as it did last week — to move programs and jobs to Redstone Arsenal, it's an expression of confidence in the contribution North Alabama has made and will make to the nation's defense. It's also a reminder that the best chance for success in future BRAC decisions comes in Redstone doing outstanding work and leaders marshaling facts and logic, not just political clout.

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