A Political Plum

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Political Plum

The signal beacons of Fort Terry went dark many decades ago, not long after Suffolk County Army Airfield (built January 1943) was surplussed and turned back to the County.

However, when the facilities were reactivated as Suffolk County Air Force Base in 1951 to serve as a fighter interceptor base under the Air Defense Command1, no one was interested in tiny Fort Terry.

Its eleven coastal artillery batteries had been decommissioned as any hostile threats were seen as coming from air strikes2 rather than gun boats or submarines entering Long Island Sound.

With no takers on the horizon, in early 1952, the Army Chemical Corps under the control of the First Army, seized the opportunity to use the relatively isolated facility to conduct anti-animal biological warfare studies.

(Read: "experiments," and the "animals" weren't just livestock!)

Two years later the Department of Agriculture (USDA) took over the island and began using it as an animal disease research center.

While the name sounded less sinister, in reality terrible and terrifying science occurred there, witness the heightened security around Plum Island, since 2002 under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security.

Now the U.S. Government is planning to de­commission the facility and transfer its opera­tions to a proposed National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas, deem­ing the little island off Orient Point to be:

"...nearing the end of its lifecycle and too small to meet the nation's research needs. ...there is physically not enough room in the Plum Island Facility."

(See: "Why Build a New Facility?")

I dunno... aside from the economic impact to the Long Island area, does anyone really think this type of bio-research lab belongs in middle America?

Congressman Tim Bishop (D, NY), in an election year, is on the case for keeping the status quo.

But if DHS is determined to move everything to a mineshaft beneath the Flint Hills of Kan­sas, and the Congressman would like to keep Plum Island both used and useful, here's a modest proposal:

If the current economy hasn't increased the flow of undocumented Americans back to their countries of origin, turn Plum Island into a holding facility for those "illegals" which ICE has rounded up from the neighborhoods sur­rounding various area 7-Elevens.

I can hear the howls of the Liberals now!

A cultural reference...

A laugh line in an intensely non-comic movie, 1991's "Silence of the Lambs," occurred when FBI agents offered, as an induce­ment to assisting them in a case, the impris­oned "Dr. Hannibal Lecter" a transfer to Plum Island as if it were the garden spot of the East Coast.

Audiences in Manhattan, Kansas and elsewhere probably didn't respond, but it raised the roof in the UA theater in Westhampton Beach.

But as the Thomas Harris novels and their film versions have shown us, though he may be a cannibalistic serial killer, "Dr. Lecter" is no dummy, and referred to the proposed reloca­tion site as "Anthrax Island."

  1. Then in the process of moving from Mitchel Air Force Base in Hempstead to Ent Air Force Base, Colorado Springs.
  2. To which end Fanny Maxwell and I stood watch in the cupola of the Westhampton Beach High School every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:00 to 6:00 pm ready to "Aircraft Flash 1680" (it was before we had dial 'phones locally) to New Haven should any MiG fighters or Tupolev bombers attempt to slip beneath radar and attack New York City.


1. Spencer said...

Dean, I worked on Plum Island for a short time back in the '70s and it is indeed a garden spot on the East Coast, and would be the highest-priced real estate around if the Feds didn't screw it up.

2. Johnny Romo said...

Plum Island was the nation's major laboratory dealing with mad cow disease. Until this decision, it held the only anti-virus in North America to cure this disease. The choice may be a good one to close the facility to most, but the lack of isolation in Kansas, may not be the wisest choice. We will be moving a crippling epidemic next door to the healthy steer that provide us food.

"Mad cow disease" is a prion, Johnny, and like herpes, a prion is forever. No "cure," yet.
– Dean

3. HDHouse said...

Just so the writer gets some idea or perspective on things, to use Plum Island as a holding pen for illegals - well think about having one bus with 50 on board go down the North Road every minute for the next 180 days.

I'm sure your "solution" is for amusement only... unless the idea of packing 13 million people on a small island is your idea of population dispersement not density....

  1. It wasn't suggested that the "undocumented populace" of the entire Eastern seaboard be held there.
  2. The phrase "a modest proposal" for one as literate as yourself, should have been a clue.

4. HDHouse said...

I just thought that the idea of nearly bumper to bumper Jitneys was too visually stimulating to pass up.

5. Mrs Genetics said...

This prompted me to pull out Nelson DeMille's novel, Plum Island, and re-read it.

6. Tugboat Bertha said...

An associate who was employed at Plum Island for many years said that when the Connecticut Nuclear Power Plant emitted too many carcinogens into the air Plum Island got the report. The rest of us were never alerted. Course this is just hearsay, but your Political Plum story reminded me of it.

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