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National Editorial & Columnists

Base closing would hurt a lot

Southern Illinois already hit hard

If there is one thing we don’t need in Southern Illinois, it is another major problem.

Our unemployment rate exceeds the state’s, which exceeds the nation’s jobless rate. Leadership controversies, declining enrollments, and funding cutbacks haunt SIU. Our share of government jobs was cut through correctional closings.

Our state’s financial quagmire is pulling the region into the murky deep. Even the glittering hope of a future destination development of retail and getaway venues in Marion is taking on tarnish with the recent departure of the principal developer.

At times it seems if it wasn’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.

What else could account for the possibility of Scott Air Force Base even being mentioned in discussions of potential base closings that might begin in 2015? The last such initiative was in 2005 and resulted in the nationwide loss of tens of thousands of civilian jobs and $35 billion in economic activity.

There is no doubt about military expenses being on the chopping block. As we reported last Monday, the nation has more military infrastructure than needed, according to the U.S. Department of Defense officials.

At the same time, the costs of Medicare and other government-funded social programs are soaring, forcing spending reductions in other areas of the federal budget.

That’s already caught the attention of the state’s congressional delegation, especially since almost 4,500 civilian workers at the base near Belleville are scheduled to start taking 20 days of unpaid furloughs between May and September as a result of a series of automatic federal budget cuts that began last month.

Originally commissioned as Scott Field, the air base was developed and used for military training purposes in World War I. It has served a variety of military purposes over the years and currently provides air refueling and transport services, among other operations. It has an 8,000-foot runway, an air traffic control tower built in 1997, and houses nearly 30 aircraft.

Scott Air Force Base is a major military installation and, as such, wields enormous economic power that impacts all of Southern Illinois, including the entire St. Louis region.

Don’t wait until 2015 and potential base closing decisions come into focus. Begin working today to ensure the survival of Scott Air Force Base by contacting your congressmen.

Consider, too, taking your message directly to President Barack Obama, who counted on Illinois voters to keep him in the White House.

Those voters expect Obama to support Scott Air Force Base.

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