A government commission Thursday proposed closing, partially closing or changing the missions of 145 military bases or installations for annual savings of $693 million and a total savings of $5.6 billion over 20 years.
The Commission on Base Realignment and Closure called for closing 86 installations, including 52 military housing units. Five more installations would be partially closed and 54 others would get new missions and additional personnel."My initial impression is favorable. My general feeling is that this will be well received by the Congress," said Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said the odds "are heavily in favor" of the recommendations taking effect.
The largest affected bases were five Air Force bases - Chanute in Illinois; George, Mather and Norton in California; and Pease in New Hampshire, to close - plus three Army installations - Fort Dix in New Jersey, to partially close; Fort Sheridan in Illinois and the Presidio in downtown San Francisco, both to close; and the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, to close.
Other important bases that would be affected are Fort Meade, Md., to be partially closed, and the Jefferson Proving Ground in Indiana, to be closed.
A Naval Station at Hunters Point, San Francisco, would not be built. Several facilities will gain personnel from the changes, including the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, Fort Devens, Mass., and the Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The news came as a blow to several communities, but others that were spared exulted.
"We won," said Pennsylvannia Rep. Thomas Foglietta, standing with workers at the gate of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which employs about 8,500 people. "We are going to stay open," he said.
Implementation of the recommendations would follow a complex procedure involving Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci, both Houses of Congress and George Bush after he becomes president on Jan. 20.
The process, which requires that the whole package of proposals be either accepted or rejected, is designed to withstand political pressure from congressmen trying to protect bases in their districts.
Former Missouri Sen. Tom Eagleton, a commission member, complained that the armed services, especially the Navy, had impeded the panel's work.
"The Air Force ultimately gave its cooperation," Eagleton said in an "additional view" at the close of the 88-page final report.
"The Army begrudgingly gave its reluctant cooperation. The Navy stonewalled, and got away with it," Eagleton's statement said.
"Intransigence paid off. When the new secretary of defense looks to further base closings as a means of trimming the Pentagon budget, he should most certainly start with the Navy. The Navy `refused to play' this time; it should be obliged to next time," Eagleton said.
The Pentagon has closed no major installations since 1977, mainly because of pressure from members of Congress with major bases in their districts.