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Senate Passes Base Closure Bill; Conference Next

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2001 – The Senate passed the Efficient Facilities Initiative Sept. 25 by a vote of 53 to 47, opening the way to a possible base closure round in fiscal 2003.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld thanked the Senate for the vote, saying DoD needs the legislation to transform the military.

The initiative is part of the Senate's version of the defense authorization bill, but not the House of Representatives'. Congressional officials said the next step is for a conference committee made up of representatives and senators to negotiate one version of the bill acceptable to both houses.

The Efficient Facilities Initiative is a part of the department's transformation effort. Studies show DoD has over 21 percent more infrastructure than it needs. A round of closures in fiscal 2003 would address this imbalance, DoD officials said.

The military needs to transform to face the new asymmetric threats that face the nation, Rumsfeld said. Threats to the homeland from weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and terrorism need to be addressed. The money spent now to maintain extra installations can be better used in addressing these threats, he said.

Savings in force protection costs alone would help the department, he said. By reducing the number of its bases, DoD can then provide "force protection for the number of bases we need as opposed to the number of bases we have," he said. Savings would also help with operations tempo -- a personnel problem before the Sept. 11 attacks that's only increased since.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Armed Services Committee said she expects action on the bills "soon."

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