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The Florida Times-Union


June 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Florida Times-Union, Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Democrats are expressing shock and surprise that the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico may close.

But the news is not surprising. Among others, we noted that it would be a likely result if those demanding the closing of the Vieques training site won.

Roosevelt Roads exists to support the Vieques site, several miles from Puerto Rico, which was used by the Navy for air, land and sea live fire exercises for more than 60 years before it was shut down in May.

The base closings will mean the end of an operation that involves thousands of military personnel, thousands of civilian jobs for Puerto Ricans and $250 million for the local economy.

One New York Democrat in Congress called it "punishment" for closing Vieques.

But Sen. James Imhofe, R-Okla., got it right. He is sorry for the impact on the people of Puerto Rico, but he said they were "lied to by their politicians" and the liberal protest movement that led the fight to close Vieques after a civilian death in a training accident.

"The time for them to be concerned about that was when they were kicking us off our range. I told them this would happen," he said.

One area's loss is another's gain. It is still possible that some of the functions of the Puerto Rican base could come to the Jacksonville area.

Jacksonville lost some of its Navy facilities five years ago to Virginia and is gearing up to face another round of base closings in 2005.

Adm. Bob Natter, commander of the Atlantic Fleet, said recently that some of the Roosevelt Roads units could end up in Florida, either in Pensacola or Jacksonville. That could offset any loss.

In a changing world, national defense needs change, and change means there are winners and losers.

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