Pentagon Proposal to Include Shutting 33 Major U.S. Bases

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

New York Times

May 13, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon will propose shutting 150 military installations from Maine to Hawaii, including 33 major bases, The Associated Press learned Friday, triggering the first round of base closures in a decade and an intense struggle by communities to save their facilities.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will also recommend a list of scores of other domestic bases from which thousands of troops would be withdrawn, or in some cases added from other installations in the United States or overseas. He has said the move would save $48.8 billion over 20 years while making the military more mobile and better suited for the global effort against terrorism.

Rumsfeld's plan calls for a massive shift of U.S. forces that would result in a net loss of 29,005 military and civilian jobs at domestic installations. Overall, he proposes pulling 218,570 military and civilian positions out of some U.S. bases while adding 189,565 positions to others, according to documents obtained by The AP.

The closures and downsizings would occur over six years starting in 2006.

"Our current arrangements, designed for the Cold War, must give way to the new demands of the war against extremism and other evolving 21st Century challenges," Rumsfeld said in a written statement.

Among the major closures were Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, which would lose more than 2,700 jobs, the Naval Station in Ingleside, Texas, costing more than 2,100 jobs, and Fort McPherson in Georgia, costing nearly 4,200 jobs.

Other major bases -- including the Army's Fort Bliss in Texas, the Naval Shipyard in Norfolk, Va., and Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland -- would see gains, as they absorb troops whose current home bases are slated for closure.

Before closures or downsizings can take effect, the Defense Department's proposal must be approved or changed by a federal base closing commission, and then agreed to by Congress and President Bush, in a process that will run into the fall. In four previous rounds of closures starting in 1988, commissions have accepted 85 percent of bases the Pentagon recommended for closure or consolidation.

One major closure Rumsfeld seeks is Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, home to 29 B-1B bombers, half the nation's fleet of the aircraft, and the state's second largest employer. That would deal a potential political setback to Republican freshman Sen. John Thune, who had claimed he could protect the base if elected during his campaign to defeat former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

Rumsfeld also recommended closing the Naval Station in Pascagoula, Miss., which barely survived previous base closure rounds. The decision was a blow to Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., who had fought the 1995 round of closures. At stake are 844 military jobs and 112 civilian jobs.

New England took a major hit, and Connecticut suffered the biggest loss in terms of jobs with the proposed closure of the Submarine Base in New London, Conn. Shuttering the installation would result in the loss of 7,096 military jobs and 952 civilian jobs.