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Clinton announces plans to soften base closing blow.

Responding to the proposed, and administration-approved, closings of military facilities scheduled across the nation, the Clinton administration has already developed and proposed a massive restructuring of resources to facilitate the transition from military to civilian-based economies for affected communities.

"[W]e will respond more quickly, cut red tape more aggressively, and mobilize resources more assertively to help .... communities, so that when they lose their bases they do not lose their future," President Clinton said in announcing his strategy.

To begin, each affected community will receive a grant of approximately $1 million over a five year period. Overall, the administration plans to spend $5 billion over the next five years in re-programmed or additional assistance to communities impacted by base closures.

The assistance package being proposed is a five-part plan to expedite re-use and clean-up of closed military facilities. The strategy includes:

* a proposed change in current law to permit low or no-cost transfers of property for economic development purposes;

* development and implementation of a streamlined contamination clean-up process;

* enhancing resources for economic adjustment planning grants;

* providing transition and redevelopment assistance through a variety of federal agencies; and

* assignment of on-site transition coordinators at major bases.

Property Disposal

In addition to seeking changes in federal law to facilitate low or no cost transfers of property, the administration plans to encourage interim leasing of Defense Department (DoD) properties by employing such strategies as rent-free leases in exchange for property maintenance. Approval of interim leases will be delegated to on-site military personnel.

The administration is also proposing to limit decisions on property acquisition by other federal agencies, who by law have first rights of refusal on defense properties, to thirty days.

Enhanced efforts to integrate the needs of homeless individuals will also be undertaken in decisions about property reuse.

Personal property, such as furniture and fire extinguishers--which until now have been removed from the defense installations and either disposed of or stored--will no longer automatically be removed but rather dealt With in terms of community needs.

Base Clean-up

To expedite clean-up of environmental contamination, the administration will assign a clean up team---consisting of experts from EPA and DoD who, working in cooperation with state officials, will have decision-making authority--to every base.

Clean parcels will be identified and made available for reuse Within nine months where there is an identified user. Properties that are in the process of being cleaned-up will also be available for lease.

Revised statutory language is being developed with the appropriate congressional committees to clarify future liability for contamination.

Economic Adjustment Grants

Planning grants averaging $1 million per community over five years, and up to $3.5 million for the hardest hit communities, will be approved by the DoD's Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) within seven days of a community's designation of a "single, local, representative organization."

In addition to funds for planning, OEA will also be authorized to support start-up redevelopment activities such as staffing "the organization responsible for implementing the reuse plan and adjustment strategy."

Transition Assistance

The administration plan refocuses many existing resources from the Deparments of Commerce and Labor on economic development and worker retraining activities. Over $2.3 billion in DoD and DoL resources will be directed to retraining and reemployment assistance to civilian employees affected by base closures.

In addition, $250 million in resources from the Federal Aviation Administration will be retargeted over the next five years to convert military airports to civilian use.

Transition Coordinators

In response to recommendations from municipal officials who have already experienced the traumas of a base closure, the administration will designate. full-time on-site coordinators for a minimum 18 months to work with the affected community in identifying and accommodating their reuse needs. Environmental clean-up and property disposal will be priority issues for the on-site coordinators. They will also provide assistance to communities in identifying sources of federal assistance.
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Title Annotation:military base closings
Author:Kocheisen, Carol
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jul 12, 1993
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