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Base closing announcement may come early

Pentagon worries about leaks and Friday the 13th; Bush says closed bases could be used for oil refineries.

Politics and a bit of superstition are likely to move up the Pentagon's date for announcing what military bases will be closed or realigned.

The list could be announced as early as Tuesday, May 10.

Federal law requires the Pentagon to publish the base closure list in the Federal Register by no later than May 16. Pentagon officials, however, are worried that the list could leak out over the weekend before it's published that Monday morning.

Additionally, the Pentagon normally contacts lawmakers whose bases stand to lose jobs in advance of the official announcement. They would be easier to reach during the week in Washington rather than having to track them down over the weekend, when many return to their home states.

The solution seemed simple enough: Announce the list on Friday, May 13. However, Defense officials said they worried about the headlines that would be generated by announcing base closings on the notoriously hard-luck day. Now, the Pentagon is weighing announcing it on May 10, 11 or 12.

Whenever the list is announced, other steps in the base realignment and closure process will remained unchanged. The independent BRAC commission is expected to hold 15 hearings across the country on the list before making final recommendations to the president by Sept. 8. The president either can reject the list or send it to Congress by Sept. 23. Lawmakers have 45 legislative days after that to approve or reject the list in its entirety.

Military communities across the country have been closely watching the BRAC process for clues as to whether their installations will remain open. The Pentagon had once projected that a quarter of all military bases would close, but recently has downplayed those estimates, saying the closings may not be as severe as forces are moved from Europe and Asia back to the United States.

Meanwhile, President Bush announced in a speech Wednesday that some military bases that are closed could be used to house oil refineries to help ease the nation's energy crunch. The Associated Press reported that Bush has ordered the Energy Department to step up discussions with communities near such bases to try to get refineries built.