San Diego Union Tribune

March 5, 2005

Former VA secretary nominated to head base closure commission

By Otto Kreisher

WASHINGTON – President Bush yesterday nominated former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi to head the independent commission in charge of closing and realigning military bases.

The one-time San Diego businessman, who left the VA in January after four years in the post, would be the second Californian on the nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, has nominated two Californians to the panel: Wade Sanders, a San Diego attorney and retired Naval Reserve captain, and Philip Coyle, the retired director of the Office of Defense Operational Test and Evaluation and a former Livermore Laboratory scientist who now lives in Los Angeles.

Pelosi is allowed only one spot on the panel, and it is assumed that the Bush administration would not accept Sanders, who campaigned last year for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., each gets to name two members to the BRAC panel. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., can select one.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, said of Principi, "As a San Diegan, Secretary Principi recognizes the importance of California's military infrastructure and its role in the maintenance and development of our defense capabilities."

The White House must select two more commission members and announce the entire slate by March 15. Then in May, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must present the panel his recommendations for changes to the more than 400 military facilities in the United States.

The commission will review the list and submit its recommendations to the administration. If the White House accepts that list, it goes to Congress, which can approve or reject the list, but not change it.

California has suffered more than any other state in the four previous BRAC rounds, with 29 large bases and dozens of small installations closed, taking away nearly 100,000 military and civilian jobs and an estimated $9.6 billion in annual spending.

The state still has the largest number of defense facilities of all the states, with 61 installations, and could suffer further losses in the next round. California is particularly vulnerable because it is home to a number of defense laboratories and test and evaluation facilities, of which Pentagon studies have shown considerable excess.

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