State Journal Register
June 29, 2001
Lawmakers attack proposed defense program budget
By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was reminded how hard it can be to make
even small changes in defense programs and structures when he presented his proposed $329 billion
defense budget to Congress Thursday.
In his sessions with the House and Senate armed services committees, Rumsfeld encountered angry
opposition to a proposal to cut 33 B-1B bombers from the Air National Guard. He met milder
protests to his pitch for additional base closings, privatization of military commissaries and some
maintenance depot work as well as for a change in the Davis-Bacon requirement to pay union wages
on government contracts.
The committee members did not react to a proposal to contract with private firms to conduct in-flight
refueling for the Navy, which has not been explained.
Rumsfeld said the proposed changes were among efficiencies he is seeking that could save billions of
dollars for more urgent defense needs.
If given what he called "greater freedom to manage," Rumsfeld suggested the Pentagon could reduce
its operating expenses by 5 percent, freeing up about $15 billion a year.
That money could help buy the additional ships, aircraft, precision weapons and other equipment
needed to modernize the armed services and to improve their work facilities and housing, Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld and Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the services have
about 25 percent too many bases, which waste billions of dollars. That money could be used to fix
up the necessary facilities if the excess bases were closed, they said.
Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., a leading opponent of Clinton administration base-closing efforts,
conceded that more bases should be closed. But he asked Rumsfeld to find a better method than the
previous base closure commission process that puts every base at risk.
Rumsfeld said his staff is studying alternative systems that could be used for a base-closure process in
Additional billions could be saved by other efficiency measures, Rumsfeld said, including turning the
military-run supermarkets over to commercial firms and raising the threshold for contracts that must
comply with the Davis-Bacon union wage requirements from $2,000 to $1 million.
The budget also proposes letting commercial firms do maintenance work that is in excess of the
military depots' normal capacity.
Those proposals drew bipartisan opposition from lawmakers with military facilities that would be
In the afternoon hearing before the Senate panel, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., shouted at Rumsfeld for
revealing the plan to retire B-1s from the Kansas, Georgia and Idaho Air Guard in the budget without
any prior consultation with the affected lawmakers.
"This is not the way this should happen," he said.