More Base Closures Recommended

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Military bases in Hawaii and California are among several a commission is considering adding to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's list of proposed closures.

In a letter sent Friday to the Pentagon chief, commission Chairman Anthony Principi (search) identified additional bases the commission may recommend closing and seeks explanations for why the Pentagon decided to leave those facilities open.

Specifically, the letter asks why Marine Corps Recruit Depot and the Navy Broadway Complex, both in San Diego, Calif., and the U.S. Naval Shipyard at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were not slated for closure.

It also questions the Pentagon's decisions to downsize, rather than close, the Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Maine, Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, and Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.

And, the letter asks for more explanation about the proposed reorganization of Air National Guard facilities across the country and the downsizing of several other small facilities.

In May, the Pentagon proposed closing or reducing forces at 62 major bases and hundreds of smaller installations to save money and streamline the services. Dozens of other facilities would grow, absorbing troops from domestic and overseas bases slated for closure or downsizing.

The law that authorized the first round of base closings (search) in a decade requires the Pentagon to answer such questions before the commission can consider recommending closing or downsizing a facility that wasn't on Rumsfeld's original list.

The commission will conduct a public hearing on July 19 in Washington to decide whether bases left off the list should be added. It takes seven of nine votes to add a base. Public hearings and base visits would follow.

Bases, including any added to the list in July, can be removed from the list later, but the commission won't make those decisions until August.

The BRAC commission must send its revised list to the president in September. He must approve it in its entirety or send it back to the commission for more work. Once the president signs off on it, the list goes to Congress, which must accept it or reject it as a whole.

The Pentagon says it will save $49 billion over 20 years by streamlining services across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and shutting down bases deemed inefficient.

On Friday, the Government Accountability Office released a report that found upfront costs will total $24 billion and questioned the Pentagon's projected savings.

"We believe the recommendations overall, if approved, would produce savings," the report said. However, it added, "there are clear limitations associated with the projected savings, such as the lack of military end-strength reductions and uncertainties associated with other savings estimates."

The report said eliminating jobs held by military personnel would make up about half of the annual recurring savings. However, the report said much of that money won't be available for other uses because the jobs — and salaries — simply will be relocating to other areas.

"Without recognition that these are not dollar savings that can be readily applied elsewhere, this could create a false sense of savings available for other purposes," the report said.