San Diego Union Tribune

September 16, 2005

Closure of bases gets OK by Bush
Proposal will shutter 22 major installations

By Otto Kreisher

WASHINGTON – President Bush announced yesterday his approval of the most aggressive bout of base closure and realignment in U.S. history.

Bush had until Sept. 23 to either accept the entire report from an independent commission and send it to Congress, or return it to the commission for further work.

The lawmakers can only stop the lengthy list of recommendations if both chambers pass resolutions of disapproval. That has never happened in the four previous BRAC rounds.

The only remaining doubt that the reductions in military facilities will proceed stems from the lawsuits filed by at least six governors who claim that the military does not have the authority to eliminate or change National Guard units without their permission.

All of those lawsuits were rejected by the first federal courts that heard the claims or overturned later by U.S. appeals courts.

Although some of the governors have vowed to appeal their cases up through the federal court system, the Justice Department and independent legal experts have determined that the law creating the BRAC process supersedes the older federal statutes the governors cite. Some of the previous closure rounds also closed or moved Guard units.

The proposals approved by Bush would close 22 major bases and reduce the activities at 33 other large facilities. They also would eliminate or change nearly 800 small military installations across the nation, including hundreds of Army, Navy and Marine Corps Reserve and National Guard centers.

The infrastructure modifications would result in the movement of tens of thousands of military personnel and civilian defense employees, but would eliminate fewer than 28,000 positions. That is about 1 percent of the Pentagon's work force.

The changes could start next year and must be completed in six years. The Pentagon estimated that once the reductions and realignments are completed, the recommendations would result in annual savings of $4.2 billion. That is more than the estimated annual savings of the four previous closure rounds combined.

The commissioners refused to close several large installations, motivated largely by the considerable economic pain the closure would have caused in the communities around the facilities.

Bush's approval, conveyed in a short letter to the leaders of the House and Senate, is the next to the last step in a process that began more than two years ago when the military services began reviewing all of their installations. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a massive list of base actions to the nine-member commission April 13. The panel later reduced the scope of Rumsfeld's recommended cutbacks.

Congress now has 45 legislative days to act, which could extend the review period into November.

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