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3 from Tampa are on panel to protect bases

©Associated Press
March 11, 2003

MIAMI -- Three Tampa officials are among a 17-member panel appointed Monday by Gov. Jeb Bush to help protect Florida's military bases from the next round of closures or realignment set for 2005.

Council members include Tampa businessman Al Austin, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft and retired Air Force Gen. James Davis of Tampa.

Bush said the council will review the strengths and weaknesses of Florida's 21-military bases and three military unified commands in anticipation of the next round of closures.

The military's revisions could be extensive. A top deputy to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in December that the next round of base closures will see as much surplus infrastructure cut as the previous four rounds combined. In the last four rounds -- in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 -- the Pentagon chose 97 major domestic bases for closure, 55 major bases for realignment and 235 minor installations either to be closed or realigned.

Florida fared well during the last round of base closures, gaining jobs and losing no major bases. Among the most recent losses, Cecil Field Naval Air Station in Jacksonville was closed in 1999 and the Orlando Naval Training Center, a Navy boot camp, closed in 1998.

The state is home to the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, responsible for U.S. military activities in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region, and the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, which oversees military activity in Central and South America and in the Caribbean.

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