San Diego Union Tribune

May 13, 2004

House panel would put base closings on hold

SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE and COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON The House Armed Services Committee voted yesterday to delay military base closings until 2007 in a move that could meet opposition in the Senate.

At the time, members said the delay was a way to respond to the uncertain military situation and most said their hometowns would benefit by having additional years to prepare for any closings.

The Senate Armed Services Committee remains wed to the plan calling for closings to begin in 2005.

The House committee included the language to postpone closings in its version of a bill authorizing defense programs for the next fiscal year. It was only one of the many issues the panel wrestled with in crafting a measure that would add $2.6 billion to President Bush's $401.7 billion request.

Much of the added money would go for equipment, such as body armor and armored vehicles, intended to protect the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The committee also authorized the Pentagon to ignore the usual time-consuming procurement rules to meet urgent requests from field commanders for material needed to reduce combat deaths.

And the committee authorized $25 billion in extra funding in the current year to cover unexpected costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. The administration last week asked for a $25 billion contingency fund to pay for possible added costs associated with the two wars.

The committee voted to delay two of the Navy's top programs its next-generation destroyer and a small ship designed to fight in the dangerous waters close to hostile shores.

The reduction in funding for the DDX destroyer and the Littoral Combat Ship also would clash with the Senate committee's bill, which approved the Navy's requests.