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Army Secretary: Base Closings Necessary

Army officials said Wednesday the base closings and realignments the Pentagon (search) is recommending are necessary in a new era of terrorist threats.

"We cannot afford to continue to operate as a static overseas base force designed to counter Cold War-era threats," Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey told the nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission (search).

Meanwhile, South Dakota's two senators planned to introduce legislation that would delay the process until most troops return from the Iraq war and the Pentagon issues its Quadrennial Defense Review (search), which will evaluate the Pentagon's future strategy. The measure, if approved, also would nullify the list of base closings issued May 13.

Under questioning by commissioners, Harvey said the Army had concerns about closing Fort Monmouth in New Jersey and moving its research and development mission to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Of Fort Monmouth's 5,272 employees, more than 4,600 are civilians, said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who attended the hearing and whose district includes the post.

Harvey said Army officials were concerned that many of the civilians wouldn't be willing to move. When the Aviation Research Group moved from St. Louis to Redstone Army Arsenal in Alabama, only about one-quarter of the civilians moved, he said.

Commissioner James Bilbray said if too few civilian workers moved from Fort Monmouth, it could take years for the Army to rebuild the post's mission at Aberdeen, and that might be ill-advised during ongoing military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fort Monmouth has developed numerous weapons systems and other technological devices currently being used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Commission Chairman Anthony Principi asked where 70,000 overseas troops would be stationed when they came back to the United States. Army officials said of that number, 47,000 are Army personnel and would be going to Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort Riley in Kansas, Fort Carson in Colorado, Fort Lewis in Washington state, and Fort Shafter in Hawaii.