As you know, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine is still recovering from a near-fatal automobile accident last month. En route to Don Imus' apology meeting with the Rutgers University women's basketball team, the governor's SUV (driven by a New Jersey state trooper) went out of control and crashed, leaving Corzine with serious injuries. The investigation revealed that the governor's vehicle was traveling 91 mph at the time of the accident, and Corzine wasn't wearing his seat belt.
Based on his latest pronouncement, we're also wondering of the governor didn't hit his head on the dashboard or windshield during the accident. At a news conference on Tuesday, Corzine called for the closure of the Warren Grove Bombing Range in southern New Jersey, scene of a recent fire that burned over 11,000 acres. The blaze was caused by a flare dropped by a New Jersey Air National Guard F-16, which was conducting a training mission on the range..
“I would like to hear the pros and cons in a rational presentation of the facts, but it’s going to be a hard sell to convince me Warren Grove should remain open,” Corzine said.
The governor noted a history of mishaps at the range, including inadvertently causing wild fires, three plane crashes and the accidental strafing of an empty elementary school.
“We’re kind of in the three-strikes-and-you’re-out zone as far as I’m concerned,” Corzine said.
As we noted last week, there are some very compelling reasons to keep Warren Grove open, namely to save jet fuel in an era of skyrocketing energy costs, and more importantly, to maintain the tactical proficiency of Jersey and Pennsylvania Air Guard pilots. Without the Warren Grove facility, New Jersey F-16 pilots and A-10 drivers from Pennsylvania would have to use more distant ranges like the Dare County complex in North Carolina. Factor in additional costs for fuel, flight time and maintenance, and you'll see that closing Warren Grove would be a very expensive proposition.
Regrettably, brush fires--including large ones--are an occasional result of having a military training range in your area. The Pentagon has already promised to pay for damages (as it has after past incidents at Warren Grove), and redouble its efforts to improve range safety. But that isn't enough for Jon Corzine. Trying to cash in on anti-military sentiment in the wake of the fire, Govenor Corzine figures he can secure a few more votes by running the Air Force out of southern New Jersey.
Of course, Corzine doesn't seem to understand that his own troops--the New Jersey Air National Guard--will be among those most affected by the range closure. The beauty of having a training range close-by is just that: it maximizes the time pilots can spend honing combat skills, while minimizing transit time (and the fuel required to get there). New Jersey pilots can probably get required training at other ranges, but it won't be as convenient--or cheaper--than using Warren Grove. We're also wondering if Governor Corzine is prepared to compensate other states in the event that one of his jets crashes--or starts a fire--while using a range in another state. Why should DoD pay for future mishaps, put in motion by Jon Corzine's latest example of political petulance?
We wish Mr. Corzine well in his recovery, but his misguided position on Warren Grove suggests that he's still feeling the effects of that accident. Is there a neurologist on call for the governor's mansion?