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The process of deciding which of the nation's sprawling complex of military bases should be closed in the name of efficiency has always provided a lucrative arena for lobbyists, local politicos, civic boosters, and other influence peddlers.

Another round of closures may soon loom on the horizon, and local cash outlays have already begun, including the hiring by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation of a big Washington law and lobbying outfit whose chief California partner happens to be a member of the EDC board.

San Diego's prospects in the ongoing national defense funding battle were assessed in a U-T op-ed earlier this month by Brian Buzzell, a retired Navy captain and base closing expert:.

Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, is again a hot topic in Washington, D.C., as federal budget pressures increase.

Senior military leadership, both civilian and uniformed, have been testifying before Congress regarding excess capacity in their department’s installation infrastructure and requesting authority to conduct another round of BRAC.

All agree they have excess 20 percent infrastructure after completing the execution phase of the last BRAC, in 2005. To date, Congress is not buying their arguments.

So, do we need another BRAC round? Yes. Will Congress grant the authority? No, unless something in the future convinces them otherwise.

Not wanting to take any chances with the federal budget axe, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation has retained the services of the Washington offices of McKenna Long & Aldridge, a law firm with lobbying operations from coast to coast.

According to a registration statement filed by the firm May 13, McKenna Long lawyer and lobbyist Jim Schweiter, a former counsel to the House Armed Services Committee, has signed on with the EDC to lobby the feds regarding "Issues regarding military base closure and realignment."

A member of EDC's board is Kurt L. Kicklighter, the San Diego-based California Executive Partner of McKenna Long.

The law firm's website says that Kicklighter, who is listed as a San Diego Super Lawyer by the lawyer rating service owned by Thomson Reuters,

is a trusted advisor to businesses, boards of directors and owners when faced with critical decisions. His more than 30 years of practice, past service as managing partner of Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps LLP, and current service as California Executive Partner of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, make him ideally situated to provide creative and thoughtful guidance on complex issues involving finance, people, and law and regulation.

As California Executive Partner, Kurt is responsible for overseeing the firm's execution of its California strategic initiatives. He is also helping lead the firm's strategic initiative to deepen and broaden the legal services provided to government contractors headquartered in California.

Kurt managed a series of complex issues for a tax-exempt organization dealing with significant changes in strategy and financial support.

The EDC is a non-profit corporation that, according to its most recently available federal financial disclosure, took in a total of $2,402,300 in calendar year 2011. Reached by phone yesterday, EDC president and CEO Mark Cafferty said the bulk of its money comes from private sources, though the group has received government funding in the amount of which he characterized as considerably less than six figures.

Cafferty said the employment of EDC’s new lobbyist created no conflicts of interest because - while Kirklighter had been asked by the corporation to determine McKenna Long's interest in becoming its new Washington lobbying firm - the board member played no role in the subsequent hiring process and ultimate decision.

Several other contenders were reviewed, including a firm that previously worked for the corporation, Cafferty said.

Compensation of McKenna Long will vary, he added, depending on the amount of lobbying it is called upon to do for the corporation.

Kicklighter did not respond to a message left with his office.

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