- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2005


President Bush yesterday endorsed a plan for closing 22 major military bases and reconfiguring 33, leaving their fate to Congress.

Mr. Bush had until Sept. 23 to either accept the entire report from an independent commission and send it to Congress, or return it to the commission for revisions.

The report will become final in 45 days unless Congress rejects it in full. In previous rounds, lawmakers never have rejected reports, meaning communities probably have little hope of a reprieve for their bases.

The president had said that for the process to be “nonpolitical” the commission’s decision would have to stand. He received the report last Friday from the nine-member Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC).

Mr. Bush’s submission of the report comes as his administration and Congress are preoccupied with aiding the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and addressing other priorities. A Republican-led effort in the Senate to derail the base-closing process has fizzled.

The commission said its recommendations would mean annual savings of $4.2 billion, compared with $5.4 billion under the plan it received in May from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Rumsfeld had recommended closing 33 major bases and realigning 29.

The commission largely endorsed Mr. Rumsfeld’s vision to restructure the domestic network of military bases to save billions of dollars in the next two decades and streamline the Army, Navy and Air Force.

But commissioners did recommend keeping open several major bases against the Pentagon’s wishes, including a shipyard in Kittery, Maine; a submarine base in Groton, Conn.; and Air Force bases in South Dakota and New Mexico.

The commission denied politics played a role in any decisions, even as it voted to keep open bases in the home states of Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, and other senators leading the opposition. That all but eliminated the possibility of congressional intervention.

In the House, the vast majority of members overwhelmingly support this round of closures and consolidations, which are the first in a decade.

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