Defense Department continues to push for base closings

Military base closings and realignments are even more necessary in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon, according to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "In the wake of the terrible events of Sept. 11, the imperative to convert excess capacity into warfighting capability is enhanced, not diminished," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote in a Sept. 21 letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Since that fateful day, the Congress has provided billions of taxpayer funds to the department. We owe it to all seek every efficiency in application of those funds," Rumsfeld continued. The Senate could consider as early as today a proposed 2002 Defense authorization bill that calls for an additional round of military base closures in 2003. The House version of the bill does not permit additional base closings. Members of Congress have been reluctant to close bases because doing so can mean the loss of thousands of jobs in their home states and districts. Additionally, Rumsfeld wrote that although future force size is "uncertain," the Pentagon "must have the freedom" to strike a balance between force structure and infrastructure. The Pentagon has repeatedly said the Defense Department has 20 to 25 percent excess infrastructure that is draining billions of dollars from modernization and operating accounts. Rumsfeld said that closing military facilities is not something he "relishes." But, echoing remarks made by President Bush last week, he said, "we face new and sudden national challenges and those challenges will force us to confront many difficult choices."
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