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Rumsfeld won't recommend veto of defense bill

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Saturday he will not recommend that President Bush veto the defense appropriations bill over closing military bases.

Rumsfeld told reporters aboard the plane during his trip to former Soviet states in central and western Asia that "I slept on it, and I'm not going to recommend that it be vetoed."

Message board: The U.S. military 

The secretary said if Bush vetoes the bill it would delay important legislation for service members, including a sizable military pay raise and infrastructure improvements, according to a statement on the Pentagon's Web site.

Pentagon's base closure proposal, called the Efficient Facilities Initiative, requires the process of closing bases to begin in March 2003. Both the House and the Senate, however, asked that the process start in 2005.

"We will be spending ... taxpayers' money -- hard-earned money -- that is being wasted to manage and maintain bases that we don't need," Rumsfeld added.

The Pentagon will have 20 to 25 percent more bases than it needs, the statement quoted Rumsfeld as saying.

Rumsfeld also said, "Given the war on terror, we will be doing something even more egregious, and that is we will be providing force protection on bases that we do not need."

He added, "That will be wasting money and assets that could otherwise be used to fight terrorism. It's a shame."

Rumsfeld is on a tour of former Soviet states: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Uzbekistan. He plans to meet with senior officials there and discuss the war on terrorism.

He will also attend the semi-annual ministerial meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels before returning to Washington on December 19.


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