The Pentagon is ending operations or trimming forces at 150 facilities overseas, but the commander of U.S. troops in Europe says the cuts may not quickly translate into major cost savings.
"Yes, there are some savings," said Gen. Bernard Galvin. "But I doubt they are going to be anything close to what everyone is expecting."The base closings and cutbacks, most of which will occur in Europe, represent a reduction of up to 25 percent of the air fields, barracks, training grounds and other facilities of Galvin's command.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., chairwoman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on military installations and facilities, said Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's base closure list was a disappointment.
"The Defense Department claims it will close 150 sites overseas, but these sites include gas stations on the autobahn, isolated housing units, athletic fields, and sites which had long ago been slated for closure," she said.
"Facilities like these are closed every day at bases in the United States with no DOD press release, no news conference, no hoopla," she said.
Galvin, who also is NATO's top military commander, said in an interview that the cutback will result in a reduction in costs for maintenance and military construction.
But he said closing costs, including the cost of moving thousands of U.S. troops back to the United States, repairing environmental damage and destroying some weapons as spelled out in arms control agreements, would reduce the impact of any savings.
Savings, he said, likely will be reduced further when inflation and rapidly rising costs for needed modern military technology are considered.
Pete Williams, the Defense Department spokesman, told reporters: "Ironically, there are some costs associated with closing down sites. But in the long run, of course, the goal is to end operations and save money."
The reductions will occur over the next few years at sites in 10 countries that range from major bases to small installations.
The Pentagon gave no official estimate of how much savings would be realized or how many troops would be pulled out of the facilities, many of which U.S. forces have occupied since the end of World War II.
The West German Defense Ministry said plans call for the pullout by 1997 of about 60,000 U.S. soldiers from West Germany. The bulk of the reductions will occur by 1993. About 250,000 American troops are stationed in the country.
But Galvin and Pentagon officials said decisions about troop withdrawal remain to be made.
"Bonn is winging it," one Pentagon official who asked not to be identified said about the statement from the West German Defense Ministry.
Military operations will end at 94 sites in West Germany, 11 in Spain, nine in South Korea, three each in Greece, Italy, England and Australia and one in Japan, Williams said.
The United States also will reduce its forces at 14 sites in West Germany, three in South Korea, two in Spain and at one site each in Italy, Japan, Canada and Bermuda.
While some of the sites involve small or minor facilities, operations will end at three major bases - Torrejon Air Force Base in Spain, and Hessich Oldendorf Air Base and Lindsey Air Base in West Germany.
Williams said the reductions are partly a matter of budget necessity, partly a matter of warming relations with the Soviet Union.
"As the threat changes in Eastern Europe, as the Soviet forces pull back, as East European governments change and become democratically elected, clearly the nature of our deployments changes as well," he said.
U.S. Base closings
The Pentagon announced Tuesday it will close or reduce forces at 150 military sites in 10 countries, as follows:
Military operations ended
Germany: 94 sites
Spain: 11 sites
S. Korea: 9 sites
Greece: 3 sites
Italy: 3 sites
England: 3 sites
Australia: 3 sites
Japan: 1 site
Germany: 14 sites
S. Korea: 3 sites
Spain: 2 sites
Italy: 1 site
Bermuda: 1 site
Canada: 1 site
Japan: 1 site