San Diego Union Tribiune

October 13, 2004

Congress approves extra $81.5 million for California bases

By Otto Kreisher

WASHINGTON – In what appeared to be an effort to influence the base-closure round scheduled for next year, Congress added nearly half a billion dollars to the Pentagon's request in the military construction funding bill, including funds to improve some bases that might be targets for closure or reduction.

The additions included $81.5 million for California bases, increasing total funding for military facilities in the state to $375 million.

The Senate completed action on the $10 billion appropriations bill before leaving for a month-long election recess late Monday night.

San Diego-area bases will receive a total of $117 million, which is $19 million more than the administration requested.

The add-ons include $8.1 million for a warehouse at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, which was considered for closure by the last BRAC commission and could be a target again.

The House added $250,000 to plan a sensor integration facility at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Center, which also is considered vulnerable.

Congress also added $10.2 million for a main gate and entrance road at North Island Naval Air Station and $268,000 for a security building at east gate on Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

Neither of those bases is considered a likely closure target.

The final bill added $640,000 to design a parking structure at the Los Angeles Air Force Base. The Pentagon's budget did not request any funds for the facility in El Segundo.

Although some consider the space program administration center a candidate for closure, it is being consolidated and modernized in a project funded largely through a land swap with a private developer.

Elsewhere in the state, Congress added $13.2 million for a runway extension at the Sierra Army Depot in Lassen County; $6.7 million for a dental clinic at the Defense Language School in Monterey; and $4.9 million for a sand blasting facility at the Barstow Marine Corps Depot.

All are possible BRAC targets. The House also added language supporting the Navy Post-Graduate School at Monterey, another vulnerable institution.

The bill also funds the Pentagon's requests for $30.3 million for several projects at Travis Air Force Base and $9.5 million for two additions at March Armed Forces Reserve Base. Those projects include facilities at both bases for the C-17 transports, indications of expected long-term use.

And the measure provides the requested $64.2 million at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base for barracks, a sewage system improvement, a pistol range, an operations center and a maintenance shop; $1 million at North Island for a mobility support building for the Special Operations Command, and $33.3 million at El Centro Naval Air Facility, in Imperial County, to start major improvements to hangars and aircraft parking aprons.

As a hedge against a possible BRAC action, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., included language in the bill to give the U.S. Forest Service the first claim to the 165,000 acres of the Fort Hunter-Liggett Army Reserve training base if the Big Sur facility were closed.

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