Military bases in Maine have long been a political issue. For decades, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and other installations have been targeted for closure and it has often been the strength of the state's congressional delegation that has saved them. Muskie, Mitchell, and Cohen have all played crucial roles in this regard.
Cohen, interestingly enough, later changed his position on BRAC and ran the base closing initiative for the Clinton administration. The former Secretary of State has most recently worked as a consultant in Florida helping to keep their bases open (Florida is slated to gain military jobs from the recommendations released Friday).
In 1994, Olympia Snowe won her Senate seat in large part because she was seen as more likely to preserve Maine's military bases than fellow House member Tom Andrews who had voted for a BRAC list that included Loring Air Force Base.
Now PNS is being targeted for total closure, BNAS is scheduled to lose all its aircraft and half its personnel, and the Defense accounting center in Limestone is also slated to be eliminated for a total combined loss of almost 7,000 jobs. This is the second highest number of jobs lost by any state in the country under this list (Connecticut is losing slightly more) and will hit Maine incredibly hard.
There is a tendency to assign political motives to the choice of bases to be closed. Many have commented on the fact that "blue" states are slated to lose jobs while "red" states gain from this list, others believe that the Maine closings are a not-so-subtle prod from the Bush administration to get Maine's Republican Senators in line with White House objectives. The high level of political maneuvering that has historically accompanied base closures gives some weight to these ideas.
In any case, the political fallout from these closures may be high. Senator Snowe has perhaps the most to lose. She has often portrayed herself as a Washington insider who could use her connections to preserve Maine's bases and these closures could make her seem politically impotent.
The list isn't yet final. It will be reviewed by an independent 9-member commission which can make some changes before it goes to the President for an up-or-down decision and then Congress for an up-or-down vote. Workers, community leaders, state politicians and Maine's entire congressional delegation have pledged to fight to preserve these bases.
Check out this PPH article for reactions from Allen, Michaud, Collins and Snowe and this one for reactions from Baldacci and state legislators.
Update MPBN, as is usually the case, has excellent coverage.
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