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Commission starts picking bases to shut.

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After days of anguished deliberations, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission last week completed its report to the White House on its proposed base closure and realignment list, setting in motion a blueprint for significant reduction in defense spending and economic conversion in cities and towns across the nation. The Commission recommended closing bases in nearly 30 cities, affecting as many as 125,000 jobs.

In most instances the seven commissioners voted to save bases that Defense Secretary Les Aspin wanted closed, but they also showed more independence than ever before in altering Pentagon recommendations, proposing to keep open bases in Annapolis, Md.; Fort McClellan, Ala.; New London, Conn.; Maguire Air Frce Base, N.J; Homestead, Fla.; Meridien, Miss.; Letterkenny, Pa.; and Fort Monmouth, NJ.

Commission members had vowed not to be a "robber stamp" for the Pentagon in revising the list of 31 major bases that Aspin proposed closing. Aspin had recommended closing or shrinking 43 major military installations and 122 smaller bases last March. The Commission added 47 major facilities and 26 smaller ones to the list of installations under consideration for closure and began final deliberations June 23, prior to sending their final recommendations to President Clinton on July 1. The President has until July 15 to approve the list or send it back for revisions.

If the President rejects the list, the Commission can submit another one up until August 15. The list then goes to Congress for final action, with no amendments or changes permitted. Congress must either reject or accept the entire package. If Congress does not act within 45 days, the list would be automatically approved. Among the changes from the administration's list made by the commission was the vote June 24 on which facility to recommend to be the Air Force's East Coast air mobility base. That base will be the primary location for refueling tankers and cargo planes on the East Coast.

Two communities in New York state, Plattsburgh Air Force Base and Griffins Air Force Base, were competing with McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey for that designation. Commissioners voted 6-1 to give the mobility mission to McGuire, leaving Plattsburgh without a mission. The commission voted 6-1 to close the base, the first time in two rounds of closures that a commission had voted to close a base that was not on the Defense Department's original list.

The commission rejected, for the second time, an attempt by the Pentagon to close Fort McClellan, a chemical training base in Alabama. When the Pentagon had attempted to close that base in 1991, the commission took it off its list, arguing that the country needed the chemical training functions performed by the base.

In a severe blow to a city that mounted one of the strongest campaigns to protect its community, the Commission voted, 6-0, to close the shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina. The huge naval complex there has been central to its economy and history. The. Commission added insult to injury by voting 5-2 to also close the Charleston Naval Station, another key part of the complex.

In response to concerns about the impact on the city; Commission Chairman James Courter said: "We know the recommendation is nuclear warfare on Charleston."

One of the closest votes came when the panel decided to keep open Long Beach Naval Shipyard in Southern California, which it had added to Aspin's original hit list. A motion to close that shipyard failed.
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Title Annotation:Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission
Author:Shafroth, Frank; Kocheisen, Carol
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jul 5, 1993
Words:578
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