News

Wednesday August 24th, 2005

BRAC recommends closing Ingleside and realigning Corpus Christi naval air stations…FDIC ordered to pay legal fees of Houston financier Charles Hurwitz…Judge rules against Ken Lay’s request for sources of information to grand jury… The federal base-closing commission considering military base closures recommends closing Naval Station Ingleside and realigning Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. The Base […]

BRAC recommends closing Ingleside and realigning Corpus Christi naval air stations…FDIC ordered to pay legal fees of Houston financier Charles Hurwitz…Judge rules against Ken Lay’s request for sources of information to grand jury…

The federal base-closing commission considering military base closures recommends closing Naval Station Ingleside and realigning Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. The Base Closure and Realignment Commission voted 5-to-2 to back the Pentagon recommendation. Two panel members recused themselves from the vote. The Defense Department calculated that closing Ingleside and realigning NAS Corpus Christi would eliminated almost 6,900 jobs directly or indirectly. That’s about three percent of the area’s employment. The naval station near Corpus Christi is home to the Navy’s Mine Warfare Training Center. The Pentagon wanted to move it, a few ships and maintenance operations to San Diego. The commission left open the possibility that some flight training operations could be relocated to nearby Kingsville.

BRAC also voted to realign the Red River Army Depot near Texarkana–instead of closing it as the Pentagon recommended. BRAC decided to move parts of the depot’s mission elsewhere, but to retain work on Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles in Texarkana. Pentagon analyst Liz Bieri told the commission the realignment plan approved today would cost the depot 357 jobs. Had the depot closed, it would have shut down the Texarkana area’s largest employer. More than 2,600 civilians and 600 contractors work at the depot. Twelve-hundred other workers make up part of a complex that includes Lone Star Ammunition Plant, which the Pentagon also has proposed to close. Red River workers are largely responsible for repairing Humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Patriot and Hawk missiles. The depot also makes rubber pads for insertion into treads for armored vehicles. Officials with BRAC say closing Lone Star would not affect work being done in support of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Authorities say Lone Star has had low usage and that most losses would be among civilian contractors. The Pentagon had proposed relocating the plant’s storage and demilitarization functions to McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in Oklahoma. Other work would go to Tennessee, Iowa and Indiana.

A Central Texas Congressman says he’s “deeply disappointed” in today’s vote to move the Fourth Infantry Division Headquarters and a combat brigade from Fort Hood. Congressman John Carter says he and other Texas leaders “exhausted all avenues” to show BRAC that the proposed moves were not justified. The panel has approved a Pentagon recommendation relocating the Fourth Infantry Headquarters team and Combat Brigade team to Fort Carson, Colorado. That’s where the division was headquartered from 1970 to 1996 before moving to Fort Hood. Fort Hood will retain five combat teams and is expected to have a troop strength of about 41,000.

Here’s a look at how the Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted on other Texas military installations: Fort Bliss: relocate air defense artillery units to Fort Sill and relocate 1st Armored Division and various units from Germany and Korea to Fort Bliss; Close several Texas Army Reserves centers in Texas and relocate them within Texas.

Before the vote, Chairman Anthony Principi said the task for his colleagues was especially difficult. Principi says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s proposal to restructure the stateside network of defense facilities included more than double the recommendations in all four previous rounds of base closings. Principi says he recognizes that closing bases is necessary to save money and transform the military to meet new challenges.

Here are the key dates in the closure or realignment of the nation’s military bases. September 8th: deadline for BRAC to send its recommendations to President Bush. September 23rd: deadline for Bush to either approve or disapprove of list. October 20th: deadline for list to be revised by the commission if Bush disapproves of it. November 7th: deadline for Bush to certify the commission list and submit it to Congress, which has 45 days to pass motion of disapproval or the commission’s list becomes law. April 15th, 2006: termination of the commission’s authority.

Here is reaction to decisions by the base closure and realignment commission on some Texas installations: Governor Rick Perry welcomed today’s recommendation to realign the Red River Army Depot–instead of closing it. Perry says there’s very much a celebration going on in Texarkana, in that part of the state. Perry says he knows there’s sadness in those areas around Naval Station Ingleside because of its closing and Naval Air Station Corpus christi, which will be realigned. The Governor says Texas has made an extraordinary case that that entire Coastal Bend region is very appropriate for some growth in the military, especially on the Navy aviation side. U. S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison disagreed with the Ingleside vote, saying she didn’t think the Pentagon was paying enough attention to security concerns in the Gulf of Mexico. Several oil refineries are located in the Gulf. Congressman Ralph Hall of Rockwall notes about 357 jobs will be lost as part of Red River Army Depot realignment. Hall says you can’t consider it a victory when there are that many losses. A spokesman for U. S. Senator John Cornyn says those job losses would be offset because Red River will hire hundreds of new people to keep up with the heavy workload.


The City of Houston will welcome some 1,500 American and Arab business, political and civic leaders for the three-day U. S.-Arab Economic Forum beginning on September 14th at the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Hilton Americas-Downtown. Aida Araissi is executive director of the Bilateral U. S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, and says business can help build bridges between the regions to create a shared stake in a prosperous future.

Aida Araissi audio

Mayor Bill White says the city will help smooth the arrival of Arab visitors.

Mayor Bill White audio

More than 12 Arab countries are participating, discussing current and future business opportunities, including Iraq’s foreign minister.


The federal government has been ordered to pay the legal fees–more than $72 million worth–of Houston financier Charles Hurwitz. The matter involves the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s failed lawsuit against Hurwitz over a defunct savings and loan. A federal judge in Houston sided with Hurwitz in the awarding of legal costs. The FDIC in 1995 sued the chairman and chief executive of Houston-based Maxxam. Prosecutors blamed Hurwitz for the 1988 failure of United Savings of Texas–which cost $1.6 billion. Hurwitz never owned United Savings. But he did own almost a quarter of the thrift’s parent, United Financial Group, through MCO Holdings–which later became Maxxam. The FDIC dropped its suit in 2002. Hurwitz countersued. The FDIC didn’t immediately return a call for comment.


A Houston federal judge has denied a request by former Enron Chairman Ken Lay for prosecutors to reveal sources of information, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Justice Department withholds the names of unindicted co-conspirators from indictments to prevent compromising ongoing investigations, and there are 114 of them in the case against Lay and former executives Jeff Skilling and Rick Causey. U. S. District Court Judge Sim Lake denied the request to reveal the sources of information provided to the Enron Task Force.


British Airways and the U. S. company that provides its in-flight meals agreed to a new deal. The move delays Gate Gourmet from filing for bankruptcy protection. But talks between the caterer and a union, on which the deal hinged, have hit a stumbling block. Gate Gourmet is owned by Texas Pacific Group of Fort Worth. British Airways spokesman Mike Street says the airline and Gate Gourmet agreed to terms that would give the caterer more money and extend its contract to 2010. But Street says the carrier is holding off on signing onto the deal until the caterer solved its staffing dispute with the Transport and General Workers Union.


Hawaii has become the first state in the U. S. to set limits on wholesale gasoline prices. The State Public Utilities Commission is setting the wholesale price ceiling for gasoline in Honolulu at just under $2.16 a gallon. The caps apply as of next week, when a new law goes into effect. It lets Hawaii set a maximum wholesale price at which gasoline can be sold. The limit is based on the weekly average of spot prices in Los Angeles and New York, and on the U. S. Gulf Coast. The law doesn’t put a cap on retail prices. Gas prices in Hawaii are the highest in the country, but they could be falling dramatically as a result of the law. The statewide average of the retail price of a gallon of regular unleaded today reached a record-high of $2.84. AAA says that’s four cents higher than in California. If wholesalers charge the maximum allowed, and retailers keep their usual markup of 12 cents a gallon, prices for regular unleaded would fall to $2.28.


A ruling in Alaska Superior Court says the City of Valdez can impose a property tax on tankers entering its port to pick up crude oil. But the judge in Anchorage also says the city has likely overtaxed the vessels, and could owe refunds to Houston-based ConocoPhillips and Irving-based Exxon Mobil. The judge says a vessel should pay taxes in the place it does business at rates similar to those paid by locals–for as long as the vessel is in the area. About one tanker per day arrives in Valdez to pick up North Slope crude oil headed to West Coast refineries. Valdez in 2000 imposed the property tax on large vessels, particularly tankers, to make up for falling property tax collections on the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s tanker port.


Dell


Electronic Data Systems today said it’s realigned its contract with the British Department for Work and Pensions. The Plano-based computer services contractor says the move boosts its revenue from the deal by $1.4 billion. It says the revised five-year contract has a total value of about $4.7 billion. EDS says the change provides it with `”greater certainty” of income from the department. It also says the British government agency could award additional work valued at up to $324 million. EDS says it simplifies a web of contracts that were signed with various UK social services agencies. Those contracts were moved under the Work and Pensions Department when that agency was formed in 2002.


A Houston-based energy company’s initial public offering today was greeted warmly by investors in its first day of trading. Shares of Enterprise GP Holdings opened above its offering price on the New York Stock Exchange. Enterprise GP Holdings owns the general partner of Enterprise Products Partners. It opened at $33.05 per share–up 18 percent from its IPO offer price of $28 a share.


Deposed Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is writing a book about her career. The memoir is scheduled to be published next year by Penguin Books. Fiorina was considered one of the most powerful and prominent women in corporate America when she was hired to invigorate Hewlett-Packard. But she was let go last winter for failing to deliver enough benefits from the company’s acquisition of Compaq Computer.

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