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Voinovich hears bid to retain air guard

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A group lobbying to prevent the closing of the Ohio Air National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing at Toledo Express Airport yesterday presented its case to U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, but he said politics will play only a small part in the process.

Rather, he said, Base Realignment and Closure recommendations next month by the U.S. Department of Defense will focus on global military efficiency and cost savings.

"I know that some people look at BRAC as bad, but we need to do more with less. I've been very, very supportive of the BRAC process," Mr. Voinovich, a former Ohio Republican governor, told members of the Toledo BRAC Support Group. The local committee has been working to keep the Toledo base off a list of recommended closures.

The recommendations are due May 16. The BRAC commission may adjust the list before forwarding it to President Bush and Congress for final approval. Once the commission submits its report, the President and Congress must reject or accept the report in its entirety.

That's why it's critical to keep the base off the list of recommendations, Joe Renaud, Ohio's aerospace and defense adviser, told members of the committee shortly before Mr. Voinovich's arrival.

Only 10 percent of the bases that have been named on the recommendations during previous BRAC rounds have survived eventual cuts. If the Defense Department taps the Toledo base for recommended closure, "it's going to be very difficult to stop that train," he said.

Still, the Toledo BRAC support group has done a good job of illustrating the 180th's "excellent" and "competitive" military performance, its strategic location in northwest Ohio, its potential for expansion, and its community support, Mr. Voinovich said.

"From my perspective, they look very, very competitive. The community should be congratulated," he said after the meeting.

This is the fifth and final round of closings authorized by the BRAC Commission.

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