Court to hear arguments over base closing

Saturday, September 3, 2005

WASHINGTON -- A federal judge will hear arguments next week in Missouri's effort to stop the federal base closings commission from closing an Air National Guard unit in St. Louis.

Attorney General Jay Nixon has filed a motion for preliminary injunction against relocation of 19 fighter jets from the 131st Fighter Wing to bases in Nevada and Montana.

The Base Closure and Realignment Commission voted last week to shutter the unit as part of its plan to shrink the military and save money.

Missouri is the fourth state to take legal action against the planned closure of Air Guard units, arguing that the Pentagon must first consult with state governors before closing the bases.

U.S. District Judge Jean Hamilton could hear arguments in St. Louis on Tuesday, said Scott Holste, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

The Justice Department has asked Hamilton for expedited consideration so it can quickly appeal any adverse ruling.

Last week, a federal judge ruled in favor of Pennsylvania's governor, who argued the Defense Department needs his approval to dissolve an Air Guard division there. The judge wrote that the loss of the guard unit would deprive the state of nearly 25 percent of its total Air Guard strength and eliminate a unit vital to homeland security in the state.

Missouri officials have made similar arguments that closing the 131st unit would jeopardize homeland security in the Midwest.

Justice Department lawyers argue that the Base Realignment and Closure Act supersedes the federal law requiring gubernatorial consent.

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