Dismayed, shocked and angry, Maine’s congressional delegates vowed Friday to fight for jobs in Kittery, Brunswick and Limestone.

“Our case is a very strong one,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said in a phone interview. “The delegation will do everything in its power.”

Collins, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Tom Allen met in Brunswick on Friday to work out a strategy for challenging the proposed loss of more than 6,000 jobs in Maine.

The two Republican senators and two Democratic representatives planned to come up with “counterarguments about why they are wrong,” Michaud said.

Pentagon officials propose to eliminate a total of 6,619 jobs in Maine, the second-highest cut nationwide in a round of base closings announced Friday morning.

Three of the states with the most job losses would be in the Northeast. Connecticut would lose 8,174 and New Jersey, 3,760. The largest gains would be in the South and West.

That irked Allen, who speculated that the decisions were politically motivated.

“That certainly raises a number of serious questions,” he said.

Collins said she saw no evidence of political motivation, but she questioned the geographic imbalance.

“I don’t know whether the Pentagon is prejudiced against the Northeast or what the problem is,” she said, her voice rising in anger. “It’s unfair and unjustifiable.”

Michaud said he could not find any explanation for why the Pentagon wanted to close the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Limestone and eliminate 2,400 jobs at the Brunswick Naval Air Station.

“You have to wonder why they’re making these decisions,” he said.

Snowe, calling Friday’s announcement “stunning and devastating,” said the homeland security capability of the Brunswick Naval Air Station should have been a factor in preserving jobs there.

“It flies in the face of reason, logic and strategic value,” she said. “It’s beyond the realm of reality. We will work to disprove every one of their faulty assumptions.”

Snowe pointed out that the Brunswick Naval Air Station is the last remaining active-duty military airfield in the Northeast. It is strategically positioned for surveillance of Northeast borders and Atlantic shipping lanes, she said.

Moving its squadrons would be “a travesty and a strategic blunder of epic proportions on the part of the Defense Department,” she said.

Collins asserted that military officials did not justify their decision in a way that made sense to her.

Rather than removing Brunswick’s fleet of P-3 Orion marine patrol aircraft, the Pentagon should beef up the security potential and transfer more jobs to the air base, Collins said.

“It is inconceivable to me – a terrible misjudgment.” she said. “I’m just stunned.”


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