Services show differences in enthusiasm over base closings

The leaders of the four military services showed markedly different levels of enthusiasm for additional base closings Tuesday in response to questions from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.

Asked if they agree with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's call for another round of base realignment and closure--known as BRAC--the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Michael Ryan, declared, "We emphatically support base closure."

Ryan said the Air Force "was over-based for the force structure we have today" and envisioned major savings after the excess was removed.

The Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, endorsed Rumsfeld's proposal because "the Army has excess capacity that we've carried."

The chief of naval operations, Adm. Vernon Clark, was less enthused, noting that while he believed "we shouldn't pay a nickel for a structure we don't need ... I would say that we are already, in our major naval bases, very consolidated. I think that the potential savings would be in the area of support structure."

That could refer to Navy installations such as shipyards, aircraft repair depots, supply centers and research and test facilities. But it also could mean smaller home ports.

The Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Jones, was unenthused but gave a neutral response.

"I support the Secretary's findings on that," Jones said. "But, as the smallest service with the smallest (number of) bases, I have the least to offer."

On a different base closure issue, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked Clark whether the Navy would need the Roosevelt Roads naval base and air station in Puerto Rico if it gave up the training ranges on Vieques.

"We absolutely need Roosevelt Roads if we're in Vieques," Clark said. "If we're not in Vieques, it raises the question..."

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