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Bush team to weigh base closures in Pentagon review

The Defense Department's ongoing strategic review will be critical in deciding whether the Bush administration will seek to close more military bases, according to Paul Wolfowitz, the administration's nominee for Deputy Secretary of Defense. "There is a general feeling that we now have more base structure than our force structure needs," Wolfowitz said Tuesday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. His remarks echoed those made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at his confirmation hearing in January. But Wolfowitz cautioned it is too early to say what Defense reforms are coming until a sweeping in-house review is completed. In early February, Bush assigned Andrew Marshall, director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, an in-house think tank, to come up with a long-range strategic vision for the armed forces by mid-March. Marshall has long advocated smaller and more agile military forces. Wolfowitz told lawmakers that the review would address the size and role for the military services in the 21st century. Once Defense has settled on the size of its force, the Pentagon will be able to decide how many military bases are needed, he added. The Clinton administration has sought additional base closures in recent years to free up money for buying new weapon systems and repairing existing equipment. But Congress has repeatedly rejected those requests. Wolfowitz, who described the deputy's job as that of chief operating officer, said Defense would continue to outsource jobs that can be performed by commercial companies to save money and operate more efficiently. He said Defense has mainly focused on outsourcing base support jobs, but suggested the department could find other areas to outsource work as well. "I would review all functional areas to identify and target those commercial activities that offer the most promise for competition with the private sector," Wolfowitz said in a written response to questions posed by the committee before the hearing. Wolfowitz also said he is aware of the civilian personnel shortfalls facing Defense after years of downsizing. "Given our tight labor market, the Department of Defense's senior leadership and personnel managers will have to become more people-centric and rethink our incentive structure," he added. Wolfowitz, who served as undersecretary of Defense for policy in the earlier Bush administration and now heads Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies, is expected to win easy confirmation.