Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci approved Thursday the closure of 86 military bases across the country and the partial closing of five others and asked for $1 billion over two years to begin the shutdown.
Among the bases recommended to be closed is Utah's historic Fort Douglas. A special commission estimated that closing Fort Douglas would save the Pentagon $250,000 per year in addition to a one-time saving of $150,000, probably from selling unneeded land.Both Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch generally support the closure plan, but with conditions.
"Sen. Garn has said he will take advantage of the next 90 days to evaluate the analysis on which the (government) commission based its recommendations. If the recommendations are supported by the facts, then he will not oppose it," said Garn aide Mary Jane Collipriest.
Both Republican lawmakers have pledged to work on a transfer of the fort's property to the neighboring University of Utah.
Hatch will not oppose the closure of Fort Douglas if his proposal to save the installation's medical unit is granted, said press secretary Paul Smith. The senator believes the unit "really provides a service" to the state.
Otherwise, Hatch accepts the fort's closure as a necessary Pentagon austerity step.
Carlucci's approval of the list of bases to be closed will now go to Congress, where the proposal will automatically go into effect unless Congress blocks it within 45 legislative working days of March 1.
It is expected to receive congressional approval.
The proposal would become effective Jan. 1, 1990, with all base closures and realignments required to be completed by 1995.
The secretary's Commission on Base Realignment and Closure estimated its recommendations would save the government $693 million a year and result in the net loss of 9,000 civilian jobs.
"I have just signed letters to the Congress stating my approval in total of the base closure and realignment recommendations of the Commission on Base Realignment and Closure," Carlucci said at a news conference.
"I'm pleased with the report," he said, adding the commission "made the right choice."
"Base closures are long overdue," Carlucci said. "The department has wanted to close bases for many years, to help strengthen the national defense and save money."
The last obsolete or unnecessary military base to be closed in the United States was in 1978, Carlucci said. Members of Congress in the past would often protect bases in their home districts. That was one of the reasons the special commission was created.