Rumsfeld: Pentagon won’t ax more than 10 percent of bases

Base-closing recommendations due Friday will reflect review of overseas troop levels and decision to move operations from leased space to government-owned facilities.

The Defense Department will recommend that no more than 10 percent of military bases be shut down in its list of base closures and realignments, scheduled to be released Friday morning, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday. Rumsfeld told reporters at a media briefing Thursday that only 5 to 10 percent of military bases would be closed, a number far smaller than the 20 to 25 percent figure once openly touted by Defense officials. In past BRAC rounds, an average of 21 percent of bases were closed or realigned. The Defense Department will recommend "fewer major base closures than had earlier been anticipated," Rumsfeld said at a media briefing. He said the change came as a result of a recent review of overseas military facilities that resulted in a plan to move 70,000 troops back to the United States and a "decision to move activities from leased space into owned facilities."

The 2005 base closing list, if adopted by the independent Base Realignment and Closure Commission, Congress and the president, will result in $5.5 billion in recurring annual savings, Rumsfeld said. Net savings over 20 years will total $48 billion. Adding in changes from closing overseas bases and bringing troops back to the United States brings the total to $6.7 billion per year, or $64.2 billion over two decades, Rumsfeld said.

The "global posture review" recently completed by the Pentagon "informed BRAC deliberations in important ways," Rumsfeld said. Those deliberations, he said, involved tens of thousands of hours of staff time to analyze 25 million pieces of data.

Military communities around the country have been anxiously awaiting announcement of the BRAC list that will come Friday morning. Lawmakers will be first notified by 9:15 a.m. and then the Pentagon will hold a briefing to announce its BRAC recommendations at 10:30 a.m.

The nine-member BRAC panel will begin reviewing the list next week and give its final recommendations to the president by no later than Sept. 8. The president and Congress then must accept or reject the list in its entirety.