By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
A group of e-mails that list military bases likely scheduled for retirement in the upcoming base realignment and closure (BRAC) process are nothing more than a hoax, officials say.
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici said Tuesday that information regarding base closures won’t be available until after the BRAC Commission has been formed in March. The Secretary of Defense would then submit his proposed BRAC list to Congress in mid-May.
“Every time there’s a BRAC, these lists pop up,” said Matthew Letourneau, Domenici’s spokesman. “Right now we’re in between the (BRAC) criteria being set and finalized, which is another reason why there can’t be a list if we don’t even know what the criteria is.”
The Clovis News Journal on Tuesday received via e-mail what Letourneau described as a “phantom” list, which named Cannon and Kirtland Air Force bases among 16 Air Force bases slated for retirement after BRAC.
The e-mail was traced to Robert Downs, treasurer of the Fort Walton Beach, Fla.-based Air Commando Association, a non-profit organization of retired special operations military. Downs said he received the list from another retired military official, but he doesn’t know the source of the e-mail.
Downs saw Cannon on the list and sent it to his son in Clovis; the e-mail was later forwarded to the newspaper.
“I wouldn’t get excited over that thing,” Downs said. “It looks like one I saw about a year ago. They had a list at one time, and of course the list may have been somewhat made up.”
The e-mail claims a deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense is the source of the information, but it is not specific. The e-mail also lists bases slated for retirement for the Army, Marines and Navy.
The e-mails have been circulating in increasing numbers this week, officials say, and the lists have been more prevalent prior to the 2005 BRAC because of increased use of the Internet.
“Why this is happening I don’t even want to speculate,” said Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood, who has been dealing with BRAC since 1988. “There was no list floating on the Internet during the 1995 BRAC.”
Flood said he’s fielded questions at least 50 times from reporters this year about similar lists. In the last week, he said he received roughly 10 phone calls from reporters on the subject.
A phantom list has fooled at least one newspaper, officials said.
A Sacramento, Calif.-based veterans newspaper earlier this year published an article under the headline, “…Beale (AFB) to hit 2005 BRAC list.”
Another California paper, the Appeal-Democrat in Marysville, ran a follow-up story citing Pentagon officials who said the list was bogus.