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Rumsfeld says more base closures needed

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday the government needs to make a new round of military base closures within two years, even though it's "the last thing in the world" he wants to do.

"It is not something that anyone with any sense wants to do," Rumsfeld told a press briefing. "If you get up in the morning and ask yourself how you want to spend your time, you don't want to spend it running around Capitol Hill talking about closing bases in people's congressional districts. It's much more fun to be Santa Claus."

The Department of Defense is drafting a legislative proposal calling for a new single round of base closures in 2003, but Rumsfeld expects it will face plenty of opposition from Congress.

One of those already voicing skepticism is Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, who criticized the Defense Department for targeting mainly domestic bases.

Message board: The U.S. military  

"Europeans are big enough, wealthy enough to defend themselves and what are they defending themselves against?" Lott asked. "I just think it is time we take a look at bases overseas as well."

Rumsfeld review all of the military's bases. Final recommendations will be made to an independent commission by March 2003. The commission will then review the recommendations and send them on to President Bush in July 2003 for review.

Lott urged Rumsfeld to choose the bases very carefully.

"They also need to focus base closure, if they are going to have it, where to have excess capacity. Not just make this a broad brush and scare every town, every base, every state. Target it where its needed," Lott said.

Ninety-seven major military bases were recommended for closure or realignment by the 1988, 1991, 1993, and 1995 base realignment and closure commissions.

• House Armed Services Committee
• Senate Armed Services Committee
• U.S. Department of Defense

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