WASHINGTON – Lawmakers' fight to keep their military bases is now on full throttle.
After the Defense Department on Friday announced its list of recommended base closures (search) and realignments, some lawmakers and other officials opposed the closings with vigor while others whose districts escaped nearly unscathed by the recommendations hailed the decisions.
"I am shocked by the Pentagon's decision this morning to target the sub base here in New London for closure," Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Ct., said, referring to the Submarine Base New London. "It is wrong. It is shortsighted. And it is cruel and unusual punishment that Connecticut does not deserve and our national security cannot afford."
He added: "We pledge to fight tooth and nail to overturn this decision. Today is not the end of the road — not even the end of the beginning. We stand here, united, in our steadfast commitment to take the fight to the Base Closure and Realignment Commission and remove the sub base from the list."
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Ct., told FOX News that the base's closing would be a huge blow to not only national security but the state's economy as well. She said the entire Constitution State's delegation will fight that closure.
But Rep. Edward Markey called the announcement that his district's Hanscom Air Force Base will gain 1,104 new military personal and only 19 of the 2,000-strong staff will be transferred from Natick Soldier Systems Center a "huge victory."
"We are pleased that the Pentagon has recognized the extraordinary military value of Natick and Hanscom," Markey said. "Today’s decision will allow Natick and Hanscom to continue to put Massachusetts at the forefront of our proud tradition of protecting the United States of America."
The Pentagon on Friday released its list of recommendations for those military bases and other installations they want to see closed or realigned in some way in order to save about $48 billion over the next 20 years. It proposed shutting about 180 military installations, including 33 major bases. Another 29 major bases can remain open but with thousands fewer troops. More than 775 other smaller military installations, including National Guard and Reserve facilities, will also be closed or realigned, according to the recommendations.
The Pentagon's plan would result in a net loss of 29,005 military and civilian jobs at domestic installations. Overall, it's proposed that 218,570 military and civilian positions be pulled out of some U.S. bases while 189,565 positions are added to others. The closures and downsizings would occur over six years starting in 2006.
The Pentagon's recommendations must be approved by a nine-member commission called the Base Realignment and Closure (search) (BRAC) commission that will review them, travel to those installations and discuss the potential closings with community members.
Lawmakers likely will lobby the BRAC commission in an effort to keep some of their districts' bases open. In the end, the BRAC list must be approved by President Bush. The entire process likely will run into the fall.
Travesty or Blessing?
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.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., on Friday called the Pentagon "flat wrong" about Ellsworth, and he vowed to lead a Senate delay of the closures.
"We should not close a single base here in America before the Pentagon decides which overseas bases to close. It defies common sense to close a base like Ellsworth before its strategic value is addressed in the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR)."
The QDR — a comprehensive examination of U.S. future defense needs — is due to be released early next year. Thune, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, plans to introduce legislation to stop or delay the BRAC round from moving forward, saying all legislative options are on the table.
"Closing domestic bases before we complete the Overseas BRAC and QDR would be putting the cart before the horse," he said.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told FOX News that he's grateful that San Diego and California have been spared thus far from base closings. The California Democrat thinks it's due primarily to two reasons: that state's bases have a high military value and in the last four rounds of base closings, 30 percent of bases closed were in his state.
Hunter said he also disagrees with the decision to close the Submarine Base New London in Groton, Ct.
Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine blasted the proposed closing of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Defense Finance and Accounting Service Center in Limestone for closure, as well as the Brunswick Naval Air Station for realignment, calling the idea "outrageous."
"It is a travesty and a strategic blunder of epic proportions on the part of the Defense Department," the Republican said in a statement, vowing to visit each facility mentioned to help craft a strategy to prevent the proposed changes. "It is entirely beyond me as to the basis on which they made their recommendations, but it certainly wasn't logic or reason. Clearly, in arriving at these inexplicable decisions, the Defense Department and the Navy must have been operating in a fog so thick they couldn't even see the facts in front of them."
Another base Rumsfeld recommended closing is the Naval Station in Pascagoula, Miss., which survived previous base closure rounds by the skin of its teeth. 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.
Lott said the BRAC process represents a "cop-out by the Congress of its duties."
"I continue to dislike the process and the fact that any Mississippi facilities are on today's closure list. That being said, I'm breathing a sign of relief for those facilities that weren't on the list," Lott said.
Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., said the plan to close Portsmouth Naval Shipyard "makes no sense at all."
"The yard's skilled workforce, nuclear license, dry docks and deep water ports are irreplaceable assets," he said. "PNS continues to return vessels to service under budget and ahead of schedule, saving the Navy tens of millions of dollars and months of operational time each year. Any effort to close or realign Portsmouth, the nation's top performing shipyard, would put our nation at risk of forever losing unique and invaluable defense capability, and renders our military less capable of meeting future threats."
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., condemned the proposal to close Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod, saying, "Otis is the number one base for homeland defense on the entire East Coast. ... It simply makes no sense to close Otis in the post 9/11 world."
On the other hand, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri pronounced himself "absolutely pleased" after learning his state would keep all of its bases. "That is the solid good news for the state of Missouri," said Skelton, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said the BRAC commissioners have a "responsibility to ensure that a full, fair, and impartial review is given to each of the bases on the secretary's list." She said it's imperative for the commission to weigh the Pentagon's proposal against the military value of each location when considering what to recommend to the president.
"The security of our country in a time of rapidly changing challenges and threats demands that great care be taken before any military installation is recommended for closure or significant changes in operation," Pelosi said.
State Officials Weigh In
Even President Bush's home state of Texas didn't escape the cuts; a number of bases and other facilities are recommended for closure.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Friday he will announce the creation of a strike force to work with communities that may be impacted by the closures.
"For more than a year, Texas officials have been working aggressively to position our military installations as vital to the overall mission of the U.S. military. Our goal will be to convince federal officials of the importance of these bases to the War on Terror and the overwhelming support from communities all across Texas for our men and women in the military so that those bases remain open," the Republican governor said in a statement.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Californians understand the goals of the closure and realignment process to better meet America's defense needs but "the process must be fair, balanced, and above all, accurate."
The Pentagon's plan calls for bringing new missions to several Golden State bases while closing just a few, in comparison to cuts made in that state in previous years. The governor said an already-appointed council stands ready to assist those California communities affected.
"In the coming days, we will be taking a closer look at the details to ensure that today's decisions are sound and balanced," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "Our initial assessment is that this is good news for California and for our nation."
Georgia officials, meanwhile, decried the proposed closure of Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Fort Gillem in Forest Park, the Naval Air Station-Atlanta in Marietta and the Navy Supply Corps School in Athens.
"This was not anything that we will accept without a vigorous defense of this historic ... installation that has contributed to the Department of Defense for many years," Georga Gov. Sonny Purdue said of Ft. McPherson, which was established in 1886.
Georgia's four bases in question represented almost one-eighth of the total closures nationwide, yet the state actually stands to gain 7,423 defense jobs through gains at other locations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.