Politics and base closings


ROOTING out of public life all conceivable appearance of conflict of interest is sometimes a needless distraction from getting things done. But James Courter got it right the other day when he canceled his consulting contract with a major defense company.

Courter is a key figure in the long-running struggle to close

military bases. . . .

Closing bases is such a sensitive issue that members of $H Congress in 1988 created the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission to take politics out of the closing process.

That's where Courter comes in as head of the commission whose job it is to review the list of installations slated for the ax by the Pentagon.

If the commission and President Bush approve the list, the bases will be closed -- unless both houses of Congress vote to stop the process.

It seems obvious, then, that the commission's members must be removed from political horse trading and from vested interests in defense.

Serving on the commission would be incompatible with, say, lobbying on Capitol Hill for defense contractors.

That's why we applaud Courter's decision to end a $3,000-a-month consulting arrangement with Grumman Corp. and to drop plans to consult for Northrop, another major arms company.

Courter also pledged not to lobby Congress during his tenure, which is a good idea.

It would take only a whiff of favoritism by the commission, and the era of unclosable bases would return.

-- Evansville (Ind.) Courier

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