Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Senate to Consider Continuing Base Closings

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Senate to Consider Continuing Base Closings

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The Senate is scheduled this week to consider whether to push ahead with another round of military base closings.

Facing strong resistance, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and three other senators plan to introduce an amendment to the $268 billion defense authorization bill on Wednesday that would create a commission to close more military bases across the nation.

A similar proposal was narrowly defeated last month by the Senate Armed Services Committee. In the House, members opposed to more base closings succeeded in prohibiting the use of federal funds for additional closures. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen has urged two rounds of base closings, in 1999 and 2001, in order to pay for high priority military weapons systems like the F-22 fighter. McCain supports that approach. McCain and his co-sponsors -- Democratic Sens. Carl Levin, Mich., and Chuck Robb, Va., and Republican Dan Coats, Ind. -- acknowledge they face an uphill struggle. "It's going to be tough sledding," Coats said. In a letter seeking support from other senators, the four lawmakers wrote last week that "if we do not reduce spending on unneeded bases, early in the next century we will be unable to fund a force necessary to support a prudent and measured national military strategy." Since the late 1980s, the government has closed, or targeted for closure, 97 bases and "realigned" activities at several hundred smaller facilities. An independent commission convened four times -- in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 -- to decide which bases should be closed. After the 1995 base-closing round, the commission was disbanded, even though military officials said at the time that too many bases remained open. McCain said the fate of his proposal to recreate the commission would be determined by the amount of muscle the White House puts into the effort in the Senate. "They have got to help make the case (that) this is an absolute necessity if we expect to have the capability to modernize the force," McCain said. …

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