The report by the Pentagon's commission on military base closings hit some communities like a bombshell. Many towns responded with outrage and fear that they faced ruin.

That need not be the case. In fact, the conversion of these military bases to civilian use could prove effective. A Pentagon study of the 100 military base closures between 1961 and 1977 showed that although some dislocation occurred, in about 80 percent of the cases the former military facility was successfully converted. Some of the bases became airports and industrial parks. Still others were turned into community or four-year colleges. Conversion of many of the current bases set for closure could prove not only successful but profitable.Successful conversions depend not on favorable location or a big outside developer but on careful planning by local officials and business leaders with a clear vision of what they want to do with the old base.