US Base Closures

Commission Votes to Add Two Bases to List
July 19, 2005 2:03 PM EDT

WASHINGTON - The base-closing commission voted Tuesday to add two military facilities, in California and Maine, to the list of hundreds of domestic bases that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has proposed closing and shrinking.

The Navy Broadway Complex in San Diego and the Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Maine, were added to the list of facilities to be closed. The commission also was voting on whether to add bases in nine other states and Washington, D.C.

The San Diego facility has headquarters for Navy operations in the Southwest, while the Brunswick air base is the last active-duty Defense Department airfield in New England and one of Maine's largest employers, with nearly 4,900 military and civilian workers.

Before voting on additions, Chairman Anthony Principi cautioned that adding a base to the list "does not necessarily mean that the base will be realigned or closed" but will simply allow the panel to further analyze those bases' usefulness.

"Our deliberations today may add more bases for further consideration, not because we have determined that we need to close more bases than the secretary of defense has recommended, but because we want to make sure the best possible closure or realignment choices are made," Principi said.

In a reprieve for California, the commission voted against putting the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on the closure list even though several commissioners had wanted to consider merging it with the service's other recruiting facility in Parris Island, S.C.

The Naval Shipyard at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii also was saved, although by a slim margin. The vote was five in favor of adding it to the list and four against adding it. However, seven commissioners had to vote in the affirmative for it to be added.

Overall, the panel was expected to cast about a dozen votes Tuesday on whether to increase the number of facilities that may be closed or compressed in size.

The votes show the independent commission's willingness to diverge from the plan Rumsfeld submitted in May, when he proposed closing or reducing forces at 62 major domestic bases and hundreds of smaller installations from coast to coast.

The panel's actions were sure to ignite a new round of lobbying by communities whose military facilities were being target for possible closure or shrinkage.

The commission was slated to vote on whether to add to list for possible closure: Moody Air Force Base in Georgia; the Naval Master Jet Base Oceana in Virginia; and the Galena Airport Forward Operating Location in Alaska.

They also were voting on whether to consider shutting down, rather than simply scaling back forces as the Pentagon proposed, at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, and Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. The Brunswick, Maine, Naval Air Station had been slated for downsizing but it now will be considered for closure, given the commission's vote.

Final decisions about the fate of bases on the list - including any added Tuesday - won't be made until next month.

The nine-member commission must send its list with any necessary revisions to the president in September.

Rumsfeld has proposed a sweeping restructuring that would close or reduce forces at 62 major domestic bases and hundreds of smaller installations. The first such effort in a decade, the reorganization is meant to save money and streamline operations of the four service branches.

At this stage, adding bases to the Pentagon's proposed list of closures or consolidations will allow the commission to conduct public hearings, visit those sites and collect data, in some situations to make direct comparisons with bases that perform similar missions and are slated for closure.

The commission also was to vote whether to consider merging the defense accounting services from three locations and the professional development education services from three locations. It also was voting to consider whether to create a joint medical command headquarters by merging operations at four facilities. It takes votes from seven of nine commission members to add a base to the list. The commission then will have to reaffirm each decision in August, with seven of nine votes. Other bases on the Pentagon's list can be removed then with five of nine votes.

Commissioners also have expressed serious reservations with the Pentagon's plan to disband or move dozens of Air National Guard units. However, that issue was not slated to be voted on Tuesday and commissioners were working behind the scenes to determine what to do with that part of the proposal.


On the Net:

Base Closure and Realignment Commission:
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Base closures are intended to save money by closing excess facilities. Some bases may become more joint, like Pope AFB which looks to be part of Ft Bragg. Many communities seem to adjust to the loss of their base, seem bases though just are not able to transition due to their remote location.

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