- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

The Senate yesterday supported closing some military bases despite the Pentagon's preparations for a new war on terrorism.
The Senate voted 53-47 to table a measure that would have stopped the upcoming round of base closures. The vote came during debate on the $343 billion defense bill for the fiscal year that begins Monday.
The amendment to stop the base closures was sponsored by Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, and had the support of Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.
"Now, more than ever, we should hold off further downsizing until we have analyzed how to fight the first war of the 21st century," Mr. Bunning said.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others argued that base closings are necessary to streamline the military and redirect resources where they are needed most.
"In the wake of the terrible events of September 11, the imperative to convert excess capacity into warfighting ability is enhanced, not diminished," Mr. Rumsfeld wrote. "We simply must have the freedom to maximize the efficient use of our resources."
Pentagon officials estimate taxpayers could save $3.6 billion per year by closing obsolete bases.
The Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 7 approved a single round of base closings in 2003. The House Armed Services Committee omitted the base closures from its version of the defense spending bill, which the House approved last night.
There have been four rounds of base closings since 1988, affecting 451 installations.
Ken Beeks, vice president of Business Executives for National Security, a Washington-based lobby, said he expects lawmakers to attempt to stop the base closures in a House-Senate conference committee.
"It's not just the savings that are important," Mr. Beeks said. "It's the transformation of the military."
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma proposed resuming the military's live-fire bombing practice on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques to prepare U.S. troops for the war on terrorism.
"These troops are going to see combat," Mr. Inhofe said. "They've relied on this live-fire training."
The Clinton administration halted live-fire practice on the bombing range last year after protests by Puerto Rican activists. The Bush administration this year said it plans to abandon the range in 2003, despite a scheduled referendum on the site's use by Puerto Ricans in November on the issue.
Mr. Inhofe said the island has been used by U.S. forces for training for more than 50 years and is vital to combat readiness. He blamed the ban on live fire on "purely political reasons and a lust for votes."
Liberal Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, have sought to end the bombing practice on Vieques.

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