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Pentagon Officials hear from Missouri, Illinois leaders

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis, MO –

Missouri's two U.S. Senators, Governor Matt Blunt, and other leaders spoke out Monday against proposed closures of military installations in the state.

They testified at the third regional hearing of the Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, hearing. It was held at Saint Louis University.

The St. Louis area could lose more than 1,900 jobs if the President and Congress approve the BRAC list as-is. U.S. Senator Kit Bond (R-Missouri) says the region would be less ready for a terrorist attack if the National Guard's 131st Air Wing is disbanded: "It does not appear that homeland security was factored in to the Pentagon's decisions. Behind closed doors, the Air Force decided to take a path where homeland defense as a factor was considered, but rejected."

Leaders from Illinois and five other states also testified at the hearing. Illinois stands to lose nearly 2,700 jobs under the current plan. But Scott Air Force Base in the Metro East is staying open, and adding nearly 800 positions.

Two national guard installations and a naval training center in Illinois are on the closure list. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin concedes it will be a tough fight to keep them open. "The chances are about 1 in 6, or 1 in 7, historically," said Durbin. "So it's a long shot. But I think we have some pretty good arguments. And I think the Pentagon's on a pretty weak footing because they haven't produced the data behind the decisions."

It takes the votes of five of the nine BRAC commissioners in order to remove an installation from the closure list.

The BRAC commission needs to approve the cuts before sending them to Congress and the President.

To hear a report from KWMUs Matt Sepic on the meeting, click on the 'listen' icon above.