BRAC Commission Votes to Save Ellsworth Base

The BRAC commission this morning voted to remove South Dakota’s Ellsworth Air Force Base from the Pentagon’s closure list.

Commission Votes to Save Ellsworth Base (AP)

The base closing commission voted Friday to keep open Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota — rejecting the Pentagon’s plan to close it — as the panel labored toward conclusion of a politically delicate task that has brought alternating sighs of relief and exasperation in communities across America.

The surprise decision was a setback for Pentagon leaders, a blessing for South Dakotans who feared losing some 4,000 jobs, and a victory for Sen. John Thune and the state’s other politicians who lobbied vigorously to save the base. Thune, a freshman Republican, unseated then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle partly on the strength of his claim that he would be better positioned to help save the base.

Thune would almost certainly have been a one-termer had this not happened, even though it’s largely out of his hands. But he knew that when he made the empty promises during the campaign..

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. R Gardner says:

    The BRAC Commission also endorsed moving the 20,000 jobs from rented offices in Arlington and Alexandria to DC-area military bases. Long term, it will be interesting to see how that one actually plays out. The loss of man-hours from people travelling back and forth to the Pentagon meetings will be staggering (though will there be any loss of productivity?).

    I also see Eielson AFB near Fairbanks, AK has been spared most of its realignment, keeping 24 F-16s. (NYT)

    But commissioners said partly closing the base was not feasible because harsh Alaska winters required constant upkeep of the facilities. The commission went along with the Pentagon plan to move some A-10 attack planes from the base, but voted to keep the F-16s there, which would ensure the base remains open year-round.

    Most of the A-10s are in the Air Guard and Reserve, so this may end up in the Reserve/Guard mess that will be decided on today (formally), and in the courts later (States disagreeing).

  2. DC Loser says:

    If you’re not physically in the Pentagon, getting to the Pentagon for meetings can waste hours. I used to work in Crystal City and the round trip to the Pentagon on the bus was 1 hour. Maybe they should just take all the meetings out of the building and move them down to Belvoir.

  3. Bachbone says:

    The main reason I heard given for the denial of closure was that B-2s are based at just 2 localities. Consolidating them on one base would raise the chances a good portion or all might be disabled if that base were attacked. Sounds reasonable to me, especially after 9/11’s intel failures.

  4. Lurking Observer says:


    If you were working in Crystal City, why in the world did you take a bus to the Pentagon? Why not hop on the Metro?

  5. DC Loser says:

    The DoD ran shuttle buses from Crystal City to the Pentagon. Where I was working was a half mile walk to the metro.

  6. DC Loser says:

    The only B-2 base I know of is Whiteman AFB in Missouri. Ellsworth has the B-1s.