Even as MacDill Air Force Base remains on a base-closure list, the Navy has notified Congress it plans to send a top military planner to the Tampa base along with 40 employees. The planning and budget office, known as the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Rear, has plans to move to MacDill July 1, according to documents sent to Congress this week.
Its commander, now located at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, will assist the Navy's offices in Central Command headquarters at MacDill.
U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla., received the notification this week and noted the irony. "I'm sure the Navy made the decision to transfer the command to MacDill because of the viability of the base," Mack said in a statement.
Local members of Congress are hoping that top secret missions at MacDill make it too important _ and expensive _ to close.
Two members of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission were briefed on the missions in a closed door session at the base Monday.
Now, the full commission is considering a closed-door meeting on the base, according to spokesman Cary Walker.
No decision has been made, but the fate of the base is expected to be discussed during the commission's two meetings today and Friday.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. C. W. Bill Young, R-Indian Rocks Beach, said he is trying to set up a meeting with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to make the case to keep MacDill open.
He said that in the rush of reviewing dozens of bases for possible closure, Defense Department officials overlooked the strategic importance of the U.S. Special Operations headquartered at MacDill.
Young has refused to divulge the mission, other than to say it is unique in the Pentagon and would cost somewhere between $500-million and $1-billion to relocate.
Keeping Special Operations means an airstrip must stay on at the base, he said.
Asked if Tampa would lose the base, Young said Wednesday: "I certainly hope not. I don't think we will. I think this is a compelling argument."
_ DAVID DAHL