Panel adds facilities to base-closure list
Military communities from California to Maine that thought they had been spared after the Pentagon's spring reorganization are learning...
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Military communities from California to Maine that thought they had been spared after the Pentagon's spring reorganization are learning they may not be safe after all.
The base-closing commission charged with reviewing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's proposal voted yesterday to add a handful of military facilities in eight states and the nation's capital to the list of bases he wants to shut down or shrink.
Those actions were sure to ignite a new round of lobbying by communities whose military facilities are now being targeted.
Mindful of the anxiety such communities typically feel, commission Chairman Anthony Principi said adding a base to the list "does not necessarily mean that the base will be realigned or closed" but will allow the panel to further analyze those bases' usefulness by visiting sites, collecting data and holding hearings.
Some in Congress had feared the panel would simply sign off on Rumsfeld's plan without looking at options. But the votes showed the independent commission's willingness to diverge — at least somewhat — from the plan Rumsfeld submitted in May, when he proposed closing or reducing forces at 62 major domestic bases and hundreds of smaller installations from coast to coast.
"This commission knows what it is talking about and is not a rubber stamp," Principi said after the vote. "We are an independent check on the power of the secretary to close and realign military bases."
By adding bases to the list, the commission gives itself more flexibility to change what the Pentagon proposed as it considers shifting pieces of the mammoth domestic-base network to better suit today's defense needs.
Bases added to the list for consideration of closure or downsizing:
Naval Air Station, Brunswick, Maine. Initially slated by the Pentagon for downsizing; the commission voted to consider closing it altogether.
Naval Master Jet Base, Naval Air Station Oceana, Va. Initially slated for downsizing; the commission voted to consider closing it altogether or further shrinking the base.
Navy Broadway Complex, San Diego. Originally left off the Pentagon's list; the commission voted to consider closing the base.
Pope Air Force Base, N.C. Currently on the list for downsizing; the commission voted to consider closing it altogether or further shrinking the base.
Galena Airport Forward Operating Location, Alaska. Originally left off the Pentagon's list; the commission voted to consider closing it or reducing forces at the base.
Commissioners will make final decisions next month about which bases to propose for closing or reductions, with President Bush and Congress making a binding decision in the fall.
Under the commission's actions yesterday, the Navy Broadway Complex in San Diego and the Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Maine, are on the list of installations that could be closed. The Naval Master Jet Base at the Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia and Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina could see even more force reductions than the Pentagon proposed or could be shut down.
Even small facilities were not immune. With an eye on possibly merging administrative, education and medical services, the commission voted to include several small installations in Colorado, Ohio, Indiana, California, Virginia and Washington, D.C., for consideration.
In an afternoon of votes, the commission declined to add four other facilities: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego; the Naval Shipyard at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Moody Air Force Base in Georgia; and Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.
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