Pentagon targets Saturday for release of base closing information

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, says the delay in releasing information on the BRAC process is preventing communities from contesting the recommendations.

Senior Defense officials said Wednesday that they hope to have all documentation used in the base realignment and closure process available to the public by June 4.

A senior Republican senator protested the delay and argued that the Pentagon's postponement in releasing and declassifying key documents has prevented communities from fighting recommendations to close their military bases.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, continued her sharp criticism of the Defense Department over the base realignment and closure process. Collins and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., last week threatened to subpoena the documents used to justify the BRAC recommendations if they were not immediately released. On Tuesday night, the Pentagon opened a secure room where lawmakers and staffers with security clearances could view the classified documents.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the June 4 target date for releasing the background data is not unreasonable, because "there's a great deal more information than ever before."

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers said lawmakers "have what they're supposed to have, and they'll get more."

Collins, however, reserved judgment on the subsequent use of a subpoena to obtain all the documents she requested.

"The documents made available last night are currently undergoing review, but Sen. Collins has no indication that the information she requested is included in the classified documents that DoD made available," Collins' office said in a statement. "Once the review of these documents is completed, Sen. Collins will determine whether a subpoena is necessary."

Collins and Lieberman have demanded the release of a variety of information, including "e-mails, memoranda, spreadsheets, analyses, raw data, handwritten notes and telephone logs." Collins said the information Defense provided Tuesday night was not useful because it could not be shared and discussed publicly.

"The documents cannot be used at public hearings, public meetings, or in any open forum, and cannot be analyzed and discussed over the phone, by e-mail, or at meetings that are not held in a classified facility by people all with relevant security clearances," Collins said in a release. "It also means that the documents would not be available for individual bases to use to make their cases in defense of keeping their facilities open."

Collins and Lieberman represent states that would be among the hardest hit by the base realignment and closure process. Under the plan, Connecticut would lose 8,586 civilian and military jobs and Maine would lose 6,938.

In his press briefing Wednesday, Rumsfeld defended the work of the Defense Department in releasing information on the BRAC recommendations.

"The Pentagon is supplying the proper information," Rumsfeld said. "The department has made a mountain of material available to the BRAC commission."