San Diego Union Tribune

March 16, 2005

Base closure panel nominees selected

By Otto Kreisher

WASHINGTON – President Bush yesterday began the politically charged process of deciding which military bases in California and around the country soon might be closed to save money.

Bush formally nominated the nine members of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission, including former Veterans Affairs secretary and San Diegan Anthony J. Principi, whom Bush has chosen to serve as chairman.

In four reductions, starting in 1988, California has lost 24 bases and an estimated 93,000 jobs.

If all are confirmed by the Senate, the nine commissioners will include four retired senior military officers, two former members of Congress, two former Cabinet secretaries and a former weapons research and testing official.

Bush nominated a second Californian to the commission, Philip Coyle of Los Angeles, the former director of Operational Test and Evaluation in the Defense Department and now a senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information.

Joining Principi and Coyle are former Rep. James Bilbray, D-Nev.; retired Adm. Harold Gehman Jr.; former Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah; retired Army Gens. James Hill and Claude Kicklighter; George H.W. Bush administration Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner; and retired Air Force Gen. Sue Ellen Turner.

The next key step in the BRAC process will be Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's release of the recommended closures and adjustments, which must come by May 16.

Principi assured the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday the commission would be fair, open and independent.

The commission then will have to review those recommendations and present its findings to the president by Sept. 8. If Bush accepts the panel's recommendations, the list goes to Congress, which can only block the recommended actions if both chambers pass resolutions of disapproval, which has never happened.

The Pentagon is expected to look hard at its industrial activities, which could threaten the Naval Air Rework Depot at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado and the Marine Corps Logistic Center at Barstow. The Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and the Submarine Base at Ballast Point in San Diego also have been mentioned as potentially vulnerable.

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