A special commission is scheduled this week to announce a hit list of about two dozen U.S. military bases to be closed, a decision that could result in the loss of thousands of civilian jobs around the nation.
The 12-member Commission on Base Realignment and Closure, formed by Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci and Congress solely for this purpose, is expected to release its recommendations to Carlucci at a Pentagon news conference Thursday.Congress also will receive a copy of the report, which could be a political grenade for members who find their home district's base on the list.
"Outrage? Oh gosh, I wouldn't know about that," joked commission spokesman Jim Abbee, who has fielded a steady stream of anxious calls from politicians, businesses and citizens since the commission first began work in May.
"I expect some people will be disappointed and concerned," he said.
The commission has been highly secretive, and there have been none of the usual Washington news leaks. The report was sent to the printer last Tuesday, and the targeted bases have not been revealed.
Carlucci speculated months ago that up 50 obsolete or unneeded military bases might make the list, but commission staff members said the actual number is closer to two dozen.
To avoid political interference, the commission, chaired by former Democratic Sen. Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut and former Republican Rep. Jack Edwards of Alabama and some 40 staff members, have been working out of an undisclosed, rented office in downtown Washington since May.
The independent commission was formed for the one-time job because Congress in the past has been unwilling or unable to close bases.
Individual members of Congress protect bases in their home districts because shutting down a base puts people out of work and affects the economy of surrounding towns.
"This is the first time that Congress has used this (commission) process," Abbee said. "It seemed to meet a need."
The commission does not have the last word, however.
The defense secretary must either accept or reject the recommended hit list in total, without exceptions or additions. If Carlucci approves it, which he is expected to do, he must formally submit the report to Congress by Jan. 16.
Beginning March 1, Congress has 45 legislative working days to either accept or reject the list outright. Failure to act results in automatic approval.
"I'm optimistic Congress will accept the list," Abbee said. "They overwhelmingly approved this commission."