17 December 2009

The Godfather: Chicago Style

Even though Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) denies the rumor, the claim that the White House, specifically, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, threatened to put Offutt AFB on the BRAC list (Base Realignment And Closing) is certainly plausible. It also illustrates the profound ignorance of the people now in charge of the Executive Branch.

Consider the importance of Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. It is home to Strategic Command (STRATCOM). StratCom is the heir to many of the responsibilities of Strategic Air Command (SAC) had when is stood down in 1992. In addition, it has other missions and responsibilities world-wide. This is not some run-of-the-mill organization. One of the functions of StratCom is to serve as an alternate command center. The function was carried out on September 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush flew to Offutt AFB to use the command control facilities at the StratCom command center. In addition, the 55th Wing is stationed at Offutt; it has responsibilities world-wide too. While the main contingent of aircraft assigned to Offutt is some version of the RC-135, the E-4B is also present and flown by the 1st Airborne Command Control Squadron (1 ACCS). Not only that, the Navy E-6B Mercury is a regular visitor to Offutt AFB, and for good reason. You can go to the link to see for yourself the mission of that aircraft.

Then there is the physical location of Offutt Air Force Base. Sitting at nearly the mid-continental United States, it is as far away from a potential ICBM or SLBM threat as you can get.

To support all of that activity, the infrastructure at Offutt is, if not unique, a rarity among Air Force bases.

To close Offutt you would need to find a home for the diverse missions that are located there. In addition, you would have to replicate the infrastructure that supports the base. Finally, it is not possible to locate all of those missions to another mid-continent site because there is none.

And then there is the BRAC process itself. BRAC is a creation of Congress. Congress acts on recommendations from the Executive Branch and is the ultimate decider of what is to remain open and what is to be closed. Many bases that were on the 2005 closure list remain open. It is difficult to envision a Congress so reckless as to run up the financial and political costs necessary to close Offutt.

Threatening to close Offutt Air Force Base illustrates either profound ignorance or an excess of chutzpah.