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Panel's vote: Move 99th, close Kelly

| Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005

A national commission this morning approved wiping out 530 military-related jobs in Allegheny County, a decision that includes moving the 99th Regional Readiness Command to New Jersey.

In an 8-0 vote with one member abstaining, the U.S. Base Realignment and Closure Commission approved the Pentagon's proposed realignment of the Army Reserve Command, which includes closing the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility in Collier and moving the 99th from Moon to Fort Dix, N.J.

Representatives of both facilities couldn't be reached for comment this morning.

Retired Air Force Col. Jerry L. Kintigh, chairman of the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Job Retention and Military Presence, said his group and others are planning to push Congress to veto the proposal once the president sends it to lawmakers.

Under federal law, Congress has to reject the entire proposal, which affects more than 800 bases. It can't selectively keep some bases open while closing the others.

President Bush also can order the commission to redo the proposal, but he already has said he will accept the commission's recommendations. Once the president passes the plan to Congress, lawmakers have 45 days to decide whether to allow the base changes to take effect.

The commission's decision leaves the question of whether the military will replace the commissary and exchange stores at the Kelly Facility with new ones in Moon. Thousands of Western Pennsylvania active and retired military, including those retired due to service-connected disabilities, rely on the stores to stretch out their budgets.

Kintigh, 73, of Mt. Lebanon, said the uncertainty about the stores is just one of many gaps in the Pentagon's plans.

"It's a sadness, when you're playing with something as important as national security, that they would be that frivolous with details," he said.

The commission is scheduled to vote on the fate of the Air Force Reserve's 911th Airlift Wing in Moon later this week.

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