- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2005


The base-closing commission voted yesterday to either shrink or shut down the Naval Master Jet Base at the Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia.

The base was among 11 military installations added yesterday to the hundreds that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had proposed for closing or shrinking.

Among the bases the panel recommended for closing were the Navy Broadway Complex in San Diego and the Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Maine.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission will make final decisions next month about which bases to propose for closing or reductions, with President Bush and Congress making a binding decision in the fall.

The San Diego facility has headquarters for Navy operations in the Southwest, while the Navy’s tactical air units are trained and deployed from the Virginia base. The Brunswick air base is the last active-duty Defense Department airfield in New England and one of Maine’s largest employers, with nearly 4,900 military and civilian workers. It had been slated for downsizing, but now will be considered for closure.

Before voting on additions, Chairman Anthony J. Principi cautioned that adding a base to the list “does not necessarily mean that the base will be realigned or closed” but will allow the panel to further analyze those bases’ usefulness by visiting sites, collecting data and holding hearings.

In a reprieve for California, the commission voted against putting the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego on the closure list, even though several commissioners had wanted to consider merging it with the service’s other recruiting facility in Parris Island, S.C.

The Naval Shipyard at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which repairs submarines, surface vessels and aircraft carriers, also was saved, although by a slim margin. The vote was 5-4 in favor of adding it to the list, but seven votes were required for a closure recommendation.

Several commissioners had wanted to put the Pacific shipyard on the list to compare its performance with another base slated for closure, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

The panel also declined to add Moody Air Force Base in Georgia to the list.

The panel’s actions were sure to ignite a new round of lobbying by communities where military facilities are being targeted.

The nine-member commission must send its list to the president in September.

At this stage, adding bases to the Pentagon’s proposed list of closures or consolidations will allow the commission to conduct public hearings, visit those sites and collect data.

Commissioners also have expressed serious reservations with the Pentagon’s plan to disband or move dozens of Air National Guard units. However, that issue was not slated to receive a vote yesterday, and commissioners were working behind the scenes to determine what to do with that part of the proposal.

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