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Inside Politics

Lawmakers scramble to save bases

Pentagon recommends closing 30-plus major military facilities

more videoVIDEO
Politicians fight to save military bases in their districts.

The scope and scale of the U.S. military base closings.

Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, merchants react to proposed closing.

• 'A punch in the stomach'
• EPA: Closed bases on toxic list
• States vow fight for Guard bases
• Closings' political ramifications
Proposed closings timeline

By May 16 -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gives Pentagon's recommendations to the base-closing commission.
By September 8 -- After holding public hearings, visiting bases, collecting data and possibly making changes, the commission gives its report of recommended base closures to President Bush.
By September 23 -- The president will accept or reject the list in its entirety.
45 days later -- Congress has that amount of time to reject the recommendations in their entirety, or they become binding.
Source: U.S. Defense Department, The Associated Press

Military Bases
Donald H. Rumsfeld

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon on Friday recommended closing 33 major military installations and many smaller facilities across the United States, sparking fierce reactions from lawmakers who had hoped their states would be spared.

The proposed changes also include significant reductions of forces at another 29 major bases.

The 28-page document, sent to the nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission, known as BRAC, marks the first step in a politically charged process that will end with a congressional vote near the end of the year. (Full story)

It calls for changes in all 50 states, with a net loss of 10,782 military positions and 18,223 civilian positions; 2,818 contractor posts would be added.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday the changes would save the Pentagon more than $5 billion annually and produce a net savings of $48 billion during the next two decades.

He also pointed out the current bases were "designed for the Cold War," and realignment is necessary to enable the U.S. military to face the war against terrorism and other new challenges.

Military personnel will be moved into positions at other U.S. bases or overseas.

The list recommends 775 facilities for what the Pentagon calls "minor closures and realignments."

Members of Congress got advance copies of the report and reaction came quickly.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, called the recommendation a "travesty and a strategic blunder of epic proportions on the part of the Defense Department."

Her state has three installations on the list, including the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Military officials said the changes called for are larger than those enacted in previous rounds of closures.

"This was a capability review aimed at jointness," Deputy Undersecretary Michael Wynne said at a news briefing. "We think all of the services are in fact going to gain from this event."

Wynne said the Defense Department defined a major military base as one with a "plant replacement value" of at least $100 million. The department said there are 318 of those.

The powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter, R-California, said he told Rumsfeld that he opposes the recommendation to close the submarine base at New London, Connecticut.

Hunter said he opposes the closure "from a national security standpoint" because "undersea warfare is now and in the future will be critical to our survival as a nation."

Two Connecticut lawmakers -- Rep. Rob Simmons, a Republican who represents New London, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat -- said they are outraged by the decision to close the submarine base, according to Simmons' office.

Among the recommended changes is a broad reduction of forces in Germany and South Korea as well as what are termed "undistributed troops." The total for those groups would drop by 14,000.

One of the bases that would be closed if the recommendations are followed is Georgia's Fort McPherson, headquarters of the U.S. Army Forces Command, which directs deployment for Army personnel.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said proposals to close Fort McPherson and other bases in the state disappoints him.

"The battle is not over. We will continue to give a vigorous defense of the military missions of these installations as we go forward," Perdue said.

Others recommended for closure include the Naval Station in Pascagoula, Mississippi; Fort Monmouth in New Jersey; Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico; Fort Monroe in Virginia; and Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

Rumsfeld said Thursday that the list would be shorter than expected since additional space will be needed to house U.S. troops now deployed overseas.

"Nonetheless, the changes that will occur will affect a number of communities, communities that have warmly embraced nearby military installations for a good many years -- indeed, in some cases, decades," he said.

"The department will take great care to work with these communities with the respect that they have earned, and the government stands ready with economic assistance."

What's next?

The military has carried out four earlier rounds of base closings since 1988. The Pentagon estimates those closures have saved about $40 billion so far.

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi leads the nine-member base-closing commission.

The panel will review the Pentagon's recommendations and send them, along with any changes, to the White House by September 8.

President Bush has until September 23 to approve or reject the list without making changes; if approved, it goes to Congress for a vote.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the closures were designed in conjunction with efforts to turn the U.S. armed services into lighter, more agile forces.

The closure of several bases is "a necessary part of that," Myers said.

"It is integral to our ability to structure ourselves to be able to defend this country well into the future."

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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