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DoD Needs More Base Cuts, White House Official Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 1999 – DoD continues to need two more rounds of base closures, said Robert Bell, special assistant to the president for national security affairs.

Bell said Congress needs to approve a system to conduct two more rounds of base closures beginning in fiscal 2001. "We need new authority [to conduct closures] -- in fact, our budget projections assume that we'll win approval of that," Bell said at a Jan. 5 White House press conference. He said lawmakers will be hard-pressed to ignore a source of up to $3 billion a year in a time of constrained budgets.

"We hope that the Congress will accept the proposal this year and give us the [base closure] authority," Bell said. "One of the reasons I think we have a better chance this year is that we're working under the constraints of a balanced budget agreement. And those on the Hill that would say, let's provide more for defense, more even than the president discussed, have to come up with the dollars in the context of the total federal budget."

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have repeatedly called for two new rounds of base closures. They say reductions in infrastructure have not kept pace with reductions in personnel or weaponry.

In April 1998, Cohen said in a news conference that DoD has 23 percent more capacity than the force size needs. "In the Navy, we have 46 percent fewer ships today than we had in 1989," he said. "Yet berthing, which includes pier space and equipment, dropped only 18 percent."

In the Air Force, there are 53 percent fewer planes than in 1989, yet apron space dropped only 35 percent, he said.

Bell did not say how many more bases need to close. He estimated, however, infrastructure cuts overall are lagging about 10 percent behind reductions in defense spending and personnel.

Base closures and realignments are also at the center of the Defense Reform Initiative. They're key, said William Houley, Cohen's reform initiative special assistant, in an October 1998 interview.

"[The] savings we get from [base realignments and closures] would dwarf what we generate from all other [defense reform initiative] programs," Houley said. "Congress can set whatever rules they want, but we have to reduce infrastructure."

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