Fort closure back in courts



Eugene LaVergne, the lawyer representing the fort union, said he was unfazed by Cooper's decision. On Tuesday, he filed an appeal with the 3rd Circuit Court.

Judge Cooper got lost in a thicket of technicalities. If the union has no standing, then who does? If she doesn't have jurisdiction, then who does?

The union charged in its suit that the Defense Department "committed intentional and knowing acts of criminal fraud (and) intentional misrepresentation and deception" when it recommended shutting down the base as part of the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closure process in 2005. It's hard to come to any other conclusion. A continuing investigation by the Asbury Park Press into the process behind the decision to shutter the fort has found that the projected cost of closing the 91-year-old base has doubled from $780 million to $1.6 billion since the 2005 decision. It also has revealed that Defense Department officials knew the official cost estimate to close the fort was wrong but chose to ignore the information.

Another after-the-fact "oops" concerning the base transfer was identified in a recent Government Accountability Office report. It found that when the mission is transferred to Maryland in 2011, the Army expects to be missing about half the fort's current civilian work force, or around 2,200 people. Current staffing levels of around 5,000 people will not be reached until at least 2014 and the staff will not be trained until 2025.

The New Jersey congressional delegation is vigorously demanding further congressional hearings on the matter. In addition, the Pentagon's Inspector General's Office continues its investigation into whether the Army knew the true cost of the fort closing and withheld that information from BRAC.

While those battles continue, the civilian employees' union is fighting in its own theater of operations.

As LaVergne said, "I believe that, legally, we're on sound ground. And factually, you practically don't even need me standing there to win the case. If we can just get someone to say they have jurisdiction, I could almost apply for summary judgment on some of these charges."

Win or lose, the battle to save Fort Monmouth is worth fighting.


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