John L. Lumpkin: The Associated Press
FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has reservations about the base closure commission’s decision to spare several high-profile installations, saying the commission focused on the economic impact of some bases instead of their military usefulness.
Rumsfeld said he was uncertain whether he would recommend to President Bush that he accept the proposed closures as modified by the commission. An unfavorable opinion from the White House could send the matter back to the panel.
“We’ve got our people analyzing what they have proposed,” the defense secretary said. “Some of it is difficult to understand.”
Rumsfeld, speaking to reporters Monday en route to a meeting with soldiers at this training base in the California desert, said the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission’s sparing of several bases proposed for closure would reduce the savings to the government by at least 15 percent.
He said the commission had substantially different priorities than the Pentagon.
“They seem to have put a much heavier weight on economic impact, (rather) than military value, than we did,” he said.
In May, the Pentagon proposed closing or consolidating a record 62 major military bases and 775 smaller installations to save $48.8 billion over 20 years, make the services more efficient and reposition the armed forces.
The commission last week overturned the Pentagon’s recommendations and spared a naval shipyard and submarine base in the Northeast and a bomber base in South Dakota, among others.
Still, Rumsfeld said, the changes amount to only 15 percent to 20 percent of the Pentagon’s total proposals for closure. In previous BRAC rounds, commissioners changed roughly the same amount, he said.
At Fort Irwin, Rumsfeld spoke to hundreds of soldiers, including members of the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas, who are set to go to Iraq in December. He thanked them for their service and spoke to them of the importance of their mission.