WASHINGTON — A government commission today recommended to Congress that 86 military installations be closed, five be partially closed and 54 assigned new missions for an annual savings of $693 million.
Six military bases in California--including the historic Presidio Army installation at San Francisco and three Air Force bases--would be shut down to reduce the U.S. defense budget, under a plan by the Commission on Base Realignment and Closure.
Norton AFB near San Bernardino, George AFB in the Mojave Desert and Mather AFB near Sacramento would be closed, along with the Presidio, Hamilton Army Air Field in Marin County and the Salton Sea Test Base.
In addition, the Hunter's Point Naval Station planned at San Francisco would not be built under the recommendations, which are intended to save an estimated $5.6 billion nationwide over 20 years.
The report issued in Washington today also said March AFB near Riverside would have a significant increase in personnel as a result of consolidation.
If Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci accepts the commission's recommendations, Congress will have to either accept them all or reject them all. Under the procedure it enacted, Congress, historically reluctant to close bases, cannot spare some of the facilities while letting others close.
"My initial impression is favorable. My general feeling is that this will be well received by the Congress," said Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He said the odds "are heavily in favor" of the recommendations taking effect.
Other important bases that would be affected are Ft. Dix, in New Jersey, and Ft. Meade, Md., both to partially close; and Chanute AFB in Illinois, Pease AFB in New Hampshire, Ft. Sheridan in Illinois and the Jefferson Proving Ground in Indiana, all recommended for closing.
The estimated annual savings of $693 million cited by commission Chairman Abraham Ribicoff, a former Democratic senator from Connecticut, falls far short of earlier Pentagon estimates, which reached as high as $5 billion. Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.) chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, had said that $2 billion a year was "a more realistic figure."
Carlucci will have until Jan. 15--five days before he leaves office--to accept or reject the panel's findings. Approval of the package by Carlucci would send the issue back to the House and Senate, which may block the closings if both pass resolutions against them.
The recommendation to close the Presidio, the 6th Army headquarters in San Francisco, surprised Mayor Art Agnos' office.
"What we (had) heard was that it will close partially," said the mayor's spokeswoman, Eileen Maloney.
The Presidio was founded in 1776 by Spain and has been operated by the United States since 1846.
The shutdown of George AFB, a tactical training air base in the desert 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles, would signal hard times for the Victor Valley communities of Adelanto, Apple Valley, Victorville and Hesperia.