Hawthorne depot should be redeveloped

Closure of military bases, like the proposals made Friday, is kind of a pork-barrel process in reverse, as states and communities strive to stay off the list and keep the federal largesse coming.

Winners and losers depend entirely on your point of view. From the perspective of a federal taxpayer, the Pentagon should be working diligently to trim $50 billion by increasing efficiency and shedding outdated operations.

And for Nevada overall, the proposals mean a net gain - all of it in Las Vegas, where Nellis Air Force Base would get another 1,400 people.

For Hawthorne, however, where the supply depot has been recommended for closure, it could be a major blow. We appreciate the optimism from some there like economic-development direct Shelley Hartmann, who sees a long-term opportunity to put government warehouses into private hands.

But the fact is that Nevada's role as the federal government's plow horse was reinforced by the military's announcements. With control of so much of the land here, such decisions still have major effects on the future of the state. The worst thing that could happen for Hawthorne is for all that property - some 2,700 storage buildings - to be tied up by indecision for years.

The Nevada Air National Guard also would take a severe hit from the proposal to move its eight C-130 Hercules transport planes to Arkansas. It essentially takes the air out of the unit, eliminates 263 jobs and greatly reduces the Guard's ability to serve Northern Nevada.

The effect on people's lives and local economies shouldn't be the prime consideration in the Pentagon's decisions on military bases, but it must be among them. The boom-and-bust cycle in Nevada need not be perpetuated by the federal government.

To that end, the Hawthorne depot should become a prime candidate for redevelopment by the private sector, growing both jobs and a tax base.


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