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    Jeb says keep CentCom here

    The governor asks the secretary of defense not to move the Central Command from MacDill.

    By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 24, 2002

    Florida's governor is joining the fight to keep the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base.

    Jeb Bush recently sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, urging him to reconsider any plans he may have to move CentCom overseas, where the war on terror is being fought.

    Rumsfeld raised concern this month during a news conference when he expressed a desire to move CentCom operations closer to the region it covers -- the Horn of Africa to the Middle East.

    He argued that time zone differences make it difficult for commanders to run the war.

    His remarks prompted Gov. Bush to pen Rumsfeld, saying that while he recognized the strategic importance of moving CentCom headquarters, he emphasized the contributions CentCom has made not only to the bay area, but to the state.

    "With Tampa as the chosen home for CentCom's headquarters, the impacts on the community, and the state as a whole, are significant," Bush wrote.

    According to the letter, CentCom's economic impact to the state is estimated at $387-million a year. That includes "direct and indirect employment, visitor nights at hotels and basic personnel expenditures."

    MacDill's presence pumps about $3-billion a year into the local economy. About 7,000 military and civilian personnel work on the base, making it one of the region's top four employers. Between 1,200 and 2,000 people are attached to CentCom. And some 200,000 military retirees live within 50 miles of the complex.

    "The State of Florida has developed an outstanding relationship with CentCom, and the Tampa community has demonstrated a longstanding tradition of supporting this Command," Bush wrote. "We take great pride in calling Tampa home to MacDill AFB and CentCom."

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