August 26, 2005

U.S. panel votes to spare S. Dakota air base

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A review board deciding the fate of
U.S. military facilities voted on Friday to keep South Dakota's
Ellsworth Air Force Base open, giving a major political victory
to the state's Republican senator.

The decision to save the B-1 bomber base is good news for
Sen. John Thune, the freshman Republican who defeated former
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle last November based on his
claims that he would be better positioned to save the base.

"This is a great day for South Dakota, but it's a great day
for America," Thune told reporters immediately after the

The nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission
voted 8-1 to keep Ellsworth open, citing a lack of meaningful
cost savings if its 24 bombers were moved to Dyess Air Force
Base in Texas, coupled with a larger than estimated economic
impact on the community.

The base stood to lose 3,852 jobs, but Rapid City community
leaders had argued that it would lead to 11,000 total job
losses, or 10 percent of the local workforce.

South Dakota, a rural state, has just 750,000 residents.