Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Jobs Here May Be Lost Army Unit Said to Be on Pentagon Hit Lit; Fort Wood May Grow

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Jobs Here May Be Lost Army Unit Said to Be on Pentagon Hit Lit; Fort Wood May Grow

Article excerpt

The jobs of 3,600 workers at the Army Aviation and Troop Command in St. Louis appear to be endangered by the Pentagon's latest list of military bases to close or move.

And Fort Leonard Wood, on the same set of Pentagon recommendations, could grow to include the Army's chemical weapons training facility, where nerve gas is used.

The official list of what is to become of the military facilities is not due out until today, but sources in Washington and Missouri said Monday that the Army Aviation and Troop Command, also known as ATCOM, was apparently on the closure list. Spurred by those reports, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan fired off a letter to President Bill Clinton, pleading the case for ATCOM and Fort Leonard Wood.

"It is essential to this state that the status of two installations, Fort Leonard Wood and the Aviation and Troop Command, be protected," Carnahan wrote. Besides their importance to the Army, they "play a vital role in Missouri's economy," Carnahan said.

The effect on the St. Louis economy of ATCOM's loss would be about $1.2 billion, said Carnahan's spokesman, Chris Sifford. "We felt it was absolutely essential to act immediately" to head off the reported inclusion of ATCOM on the Pentagon's list, Sifford said. ATCOM, at 4300 Goodfellow Boulevard, oversees parts and supplies for Army and Air Force helicopters.

Meanwhile, the Scripps Howard News Service reported late Monday that the Pentagon planned to send its chemical weapons facility to Fort Leonard Wood from Fort McClellan in Alabama, a move that Carnahan apparently supports. An internal memorandum obtained by Scripps Howard says the Pentagon decided on the move after assurances from Carnahan that Missouri would quickly award the necessary permits to allow chemical weapons training.

"The governor of the state of Missouri has indicated that an expeditious review of the permit application can be accomplished," Scripps Howard quoted the Pentagon plan as saying. According to the report, Carnahan discussed the plan on a visit to Washington on Feb. 16 and promised to work for a quick review of the permits.

Economically - especially if St. Louis loses the ATCOM jobs - the move of the chemical weapons training facility is a boost for Missouri. Army officials told Scripps Howard that Alabama would lose a total of 10,747 jobs related to the facility.

The Army also described the training facility at Fort McClellan as injury-free in its seven-year history. Scripps Howard said soldiers dressed in protective gear are trained to cope with chemical weapons by cleaning equipment with concentrated bleach after drops of deadly VX or GB nerve gas are dotted on jeeps or tanks in a special, sealed and pressurized building.

Sifford, Carnahan's spokesman, told Scripps Howard that business and community leaders had not objected to the plan and described the move as "certainly in our interest. …

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