BRAC commission judiciously weighs merits of base closures

As a commissioner on the 1993 Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission, I take particular issue with your Sept. 1 editorial, "Military Bases Aren't A Jobs Program."

To its great credit, beginning in the late 1980s Congress gave to a nonpartisan commission the responsibility and accountability for military base closure, specifically because of the inherent politics associated with the issue.

I strongly believe that the 2005 commission does have the depth of expertise, judgment, and experience to challenge the Defense Department's recommendations (they are probably even stronger in this regard than the 1993 Commission).

I can tell you from firsthand experience that though commissioners are affected by "the human and painful impact of those proposals," they strive to be immune to politics.

In 1993 for example, I voted to close the same base where my wife was born, where we met and were later married, where her parents had been assigned, and where I had also served.

In another example, Arthur Leavitt excused himself from the 1993 commission because he was nominated to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Unnamed outside political interests sought to substitute another commissioner late in the process just before voting began. The Commission, in unison, rose to reject this proposal, making our position strongly known to the president. We - and good nonpolitical thinking - prevailed!

With the help of the BRAC process, the military is transforming thoughtfully and with integrity, as it should.
Capt. Peter Bowman (USN, ret.)
Kittery, Maine

Encourage prudent health insurance

Thanks for the Aug. 29 article "Small companies ask, 'How about a raise instead of a medical plan?"

The simple solution to paying for healthcare is for everyone to have health insurance coverage. But simple is not easy.

It may be reasonable for employees to pay a larger share of their health insurance premiums, but it would be a mistake for businesses - small or large - to give employees incentives to gamble that they won't need insurance.

Finding an affordable solution will take hard work and collaboration among business people, community leaders, healthcare providers, and government policymakers, but it must be done.

We cannot solve the problem overnight, but we can take small steps that could lead to long-term solutions.

Step 1: encourage young, healthy people to obtain a high deductible plan that covers catastrophic occurrences; Step 2: allow early Medicare buy-in for people in their 50s and 60s.

At our hospitals, we often see patients who thought they would not need medical care or gambled that they could manage without insurance. Just as we urge people to practice preventive measures to avoid getting sick or injured, we also encourage them to plan for the unexpected by obtaining health insurance.
Douglas D. Hawthorne
President and CEO, Texas Health Resources
Arlington, Texas

Los Estados Unidos?

Your Aug. 24 editorial asks in its headline, "Is Mexico still a nation?" Unless we gain control of our borders and enforce immigration employment laws, we will soon be asking that question about our own nation. Only we likely will be asking it in Spanish.
Doug Bell
San Diego

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

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