Judge keeps Ft. Monmouth union's suit alive

"It wasn't a home run, but it was a triple," said John Poitras, president of Local 1904 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents many of the 5,000 high-tech civilian employees employed by Fort Mon mouth.
Lawyers from the U.S. Justice Department argued in court papers that the lawsuit should be dismissed because federal law re quires Fort Monmouth to close by 2011 and its work to move to Aber deen Proving Ground in Maryland.
The closure became law in 2005, they argued, when Congress and President Bush agreed with the recommendation made first by the Pentagon and seconded by the federal the Base Realignment and Clo sure panel.

But Eugene LaVergne, the union's attorney, argued the clo sure of Fort Monmouth was condi tional on the Army giving Congress a written certification that the move won't hurt the war effort.

The Army won't make the certi fication until the end of the year. And even before the certification is made, the House Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on how the Pentagon picked Fort Monmouth and 32 other major military installations for closure as a cost-saving move. The hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 8.

Cooper ordered the lawsuit to continue at least until the certifica tion is made and the hearings wrap up on Capitol Hill.

"Everyone except me expected the case to be dismissed today," LaVergne said after the hearing. "Today was a win for the warfighter."

It's all but guaranteed the Army will certify that closing Fort Mon mouth won't hurt the troops, but it's unclear how the hearings will play out.

Members of New Jersey's congressional delegation say they see a slim chance the hearings in November could start a series of events that ultimately will overturn the closure order.

At the hearings, officials from New Jersey are expected to argue that the Pentagon underplayed the "military value" of Fort Monmouth and grossly understated how much it will cost to close the fort. The Pentagon first estimated Fort Mon mouth could be closed for $800 million. The latest price tag is close to $2 billion.

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