Tuesday, December 07, 2010

TOP STORY >> Base could depend on Snyder as real friend

Leader executive editor

Rep. Vic Snyder, a Democrat who is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, is getting some heat from Republicans for wasting time on the House floor to praise this community’s support of Little Rock Air Force Base.

The new Republican majority in the House says it will end those feel-good proclamations next year. But what’s the harm in singling out local achievers or honoring the year of the blues, as long it’s done after hours?

Allocate time for such activities, say, between midnight and 7 a.m. when C-Span is rerunning the previous day’s events in Congress.

Snyder’s successor, Tim Griffin, who won in the GOP landslide, says we don’t need any compliments from Congress. He may be right because in Snyder’s case, the backslapping should have been the other way around: Central Arkansas should have saluted Snyder for his work in behalf of the air base.

The last time we looked, Snyder helped pass some $60 million worth of projects for the base: Getting funds for new squadron headquarters, a fitness center, a dining hall, runway repairs, a nearly completed Joint Education Center, a couple of dozen C-130Js when the plane was on life support and much more. Remember, Sen. John McCain wanted to kill the Js.

Some two dozen C-130Js are to be assigned to LRAFB worth more than $1 billion.

The C-130Js are a tremendous asset, carrying troops and supplies in and out of war zones around the clock.

Snyder, a member of the Armed Services Committee, will take a community leader’s call in the middle of the night while a bill is making its way through Congress, where he’s served for 12 years.

He won’t brag about his achievements, yet no politician has done more for the base: This former Marine is always there when he’s needed.

Maybe he’s attentive because he’s also a physician — and a lawyer who can read the fine print. (If he returns to medicine, he can always defend himself in the unlikely event of a malpractice suit.)

Sure, one community’s improvement project is another’s pork barrel or earmark, but give him credit for securing millions for this small state. It helps that the Pentagon thinks highly of LRAFB—it’s in a terrific location with unlimited air space — and so does the community, which recently won the Abilene Trophy for its support of the base.

Here are some numbers to consider:

Snyder helped shepherd through $9.8 million to rebuild the landing strips, which have been in disrepair for many years.

n $10.7 million for a C-130 fuel-cell corrosion-control hangar for environmentally safe repair of fuel cells as well as corrosion control of aircraft parts.

n Consolidated Family Support Ser-vices at a cost of $6.8 million for a community center, library, airman family-readiness center and thrift shop.

n Airman dormitory costing $18 million
n Security forces operations facility for $10.4 million.

n Joint Education Center received $9.8 million from the Air Force. Jacksonville contributed $5 million with a penny sales tax. Construction will be completed in January.

Snyder also pushed the avionics-modernization program, which extends the life of aging C-130s with updated features that save the military millions of dollars a year.

Perhaps the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, which includes civic leaders like Snyder, will issue a proclamation in his honor and give him a plaque before he leaves office.