The Pentagon has launched preparations for the next round of military base closings (search) by ordering all base commanders to provide information about their installations.

The Defense Department will give the data to the independent commission set up by Congress to decide next year which military bases in the United States should be closed.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) has said he believes the military has about 20 percent to 25 percent excess capacity at its bases. But he and other Pentagon officials say they have no target number of bases they believe should be closed.

Under a law passed in 2003, the Pentagon must give the base closing commission a list of bases it recommends for closure by May 2005. The commission then will pick which bases to close, and Congress may approve or reject the entire list.

The commission must be appointed by March 2005.

Base closing is a sensitive issue in Congress, whose members often fight hard against closure of bases in their districts. Rumsfeld has said that means the military is wasting money on bases it does not need.