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Congressional Probe Criticizes Pentagon's Base-Closing Plans

April 16, 1993|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — Congressional investigators have found fault with Defense Secretary Les Aspin's leadership in choosing which military bases to close and have taken issue with specific recommendations by the Navy, Army and Air Force.

In a 113-page analysis released Thursday, the General Accounting Office, the auditing agency for Congress, said Aspin's office "did not exercise strong leadership in providing oversight of the military services and defense agencies during the process."

"As a consequence, some technical problems occurred, and the opportunity to consider consolidation of maintenance facilities on a DOD-wide basis was lost," it said.

The auditors also said they could not find evidence to support the Defense Department's calculations of the economic impact of the closings.

The GAO estimated that the department's calculation of a $12.8 billion in savings over 20 years is $940 million too high.

It said the department miscalculated overhead costs and long-term savings.

Nevertheless, the congressional investigators concluded that the process was "generally sound," but some decisions "raise questions about the reasonableness of specific recommendations."

The Navy, for example, was intent on reducing excess capacity and targeted some facilities even though their military value was rated higher than bases that will remain open, the report said.

The GAO took the Army to task for deciding not to recommend Ft. Monroe in Hampton, Va., for closure, in part because of environmental cleanup costs.

The Defense Department and Aspin's office had no immediate comment on the GAO report.

The Pentagon recommended on March 12 that 31 major military bases be closed and that 134 others be scaled back.

The independent Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission has until June 30 to accept or modify Aspin's recommendations before forwarding them to President Clinton.

The President must approve or reject them without changes. If he approves, the list goes to Congress, which then has the same all-or-nothing choice.

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