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Pentagon May Speed Closure of Naval Station : Military: Base may be shut down next year instead of in 1996 to save money. The move could aid in conversion of the facility to other uses.

April 22, 1993|ART PINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is considering closing the Long Beach Naval Station next year instead of in 1996, as currently scheduled, on the grounds that it would save the Defense Department money, officials said Tuesday.

The proposal follows a recommendation by Adm. Barney Kelly, commander of the Pacific fleet, to Adm. Frank Kelso, the chief of naval operations, that the base be closed earlier than scheduled. Navy officials said Tuesday that no decision has been made.

The base was included on the list issued in 1991 by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, the eight-member panel that decides which military installations should be closed, but the shutdown was not scheduled until 1996.

City officials estimated when the order was issued that the closure would cost the area almost $1 billion in jobs and business. The naval station employs about 900 civilians and has an annual payroll of $350 million.

It was not clear how many jobs would be affected if the Pentagon approves Kelly's proposal. A companion facility, the Long Beach Naval Hospital, is scheduled to close in April, 1994, also a speedup from its previous 1996 closing date.

But the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, next door to the base, has been spared.

Analysts said that closing the base early might improve prospects for converting the facility for use by other federal agencies or businesses. Officials from the city and the Port of Long Beach hope to acquire the land.

In response to inquiries, Kelly's office in Honolulu issued a statement Tuesday saying that the discussion of whether to speed the closure of the Long Beach base was "a matter of internal deliberation" and "is currently under review." He declined further comment.

"Accelerating the closure may help the Navy and taxpayers avoid substantial future operating expenses," the statement said. "The current budget environment demands especially prudent planning and management for all Navy activities."

The Base Closure Commission is considering a proposal by the Navy to close a spate of naval facilities in California and effectively fold them into a megabase in San Diego, which would become the service's principal port on the West Coast.

The Pentagon has proposed shutting down the naval station at Treasure Island, a hospital and a supply center at Oakland, an air station and depot at Alameda and the Mare Island shipyard at Vallejo.

It also has recommended closure of the training center at San Diego. And the Marine Corps has proposed shutting down its air station at El Toro.

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