[verbatim statement] September 12, 2005—WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of problems with the Administration's response plan to Hurricane Katrina, U.S. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi has asked President Bush to review the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommendations to close the Gulf region's two naval bases – including Naval Station Pascagoula, located in one of Mississippi's storm-devastated counties.
"We must move quickly to improve our ability to rapidly and effectively deploy coordinated Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense assets to the Gulf Coast," Lott and U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, wrote the President. "Given our strategic vulnerability in this region, we request you closely review the DOD/BRAC recommendation to close our only two naval bases in the region and remove all ships, as well as the only operational helicopter squadron from the Gulf Coast. These people and assets were some of the very first responders on the scene to support victims of this disaster.
"We believe the DOD/BRAC Commission recommendations contain perhaps an unintended consequence, because post-BRAC, every single surface ship will disappear in the Gulf Coast (from naval Station Ingleside and Naval Station Pascagoula). The relocation of these assets to the East and West Coast would mean that our response to this crisis would have been even more hampered by the four-day steam from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Gulf of Mexico. Those ships ordered to the Gulf Coast in response, as of Friday, were still in port or still under way to the Gulf Coast."
Lott and Ortiz wrote to the President, "We request that you exercise your role under the BRAC process and ask the Commission to reconsider these recommendations that affect the homeland defense of the Gulf Coast. You have a very short window in which to request a change to the BRAC Commission report."
As an alternative, Lott recommends the President direct DOD and DHS to create multi-agency homeland security facilities in the Pascagoula and Texas locations.
"Our states are leading the way to support the victims of this disaster and will again if required in the future. However, we feel a responsibility to highlight pending decisions, which if implemented, would only further degrade the security of the Gulf Coast and our national energy production and distribution system."
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Lott has pleasantly surprised me here recently.
- Lori G