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Former Secretaries Push for Base Closures

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2001 – A group of former defense secretaries signed a letter to Congress calling for another round of base closures.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has called for another round of closures beginning in 2003. The legislation, called the Efficient Facilities Initiative, is part of the DoD budget request for fiscal 2002.

The letter, signed by all the living former defense secretaries save Vice President Dick Cheney, underscores the need for further base closures. The signers are William S. Cohen, William J. Perry, Frank C. Carlucci, Caspar Weinberger, Harold Brown, James R. Schlesinger, Melvin Laird and Robert S. McNamara.

"While we understand the sensitivity of this effort, our support for another round is unequivocal in light of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," the former secretaries said in the letter. "The Defense Department must be allowed to review its existing infrastructure to ensure it is positioned to support our current and evolving force structure and our war fighting plans."

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission last announced closures in 1995. Since then, DoD has determined it has between 20 percent and 25 percent more infrastructure than it needs. Rumsfeld has said the money the department spends on this infrastructure could be more useful helping transform the U.S. military.

The former secretaries, many of who fought similar battles to close excess installations, agree. "We are concerned that the reluctance to close unneeded facilities is a drag on our military forces, particularly in an era when homeland security is being discussed as never before," the secretaries said in the letter. "The forces needed to defend bases that would otherwise be closed are forces unavailable for the campaign on terrorism."

They also said money spent on the unneeded installations takes away from equipment modernization.

The letter, dated Oct. 15, went to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee; Sen. John Warner, ranking member of the committee; Rep. Bob Stump, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; and Rep. Ike Skelton, the ranking member of the committee. The former secretaries also made their letter available to committee conferees when they are chosen.

The Senate passed the Efficient Facilities Initiative in its version of the DoD budget. The House did not. Conferees from both houses will meet in conference to reconcile the differences in the two bills.

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