WASHINGTON — President Clinton on Wednesday postponed a decision on the proposed closing of 79 military bases but Administration officials predicted that after a day of additional study he would accept the plan this morning.
Clinton, whose reelection prospects could be damaged by base closures in California, spent time examining plans to turn over to private contractors aircraft maintenance at McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento and Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, aides said.
Clinton wants to make sure that the plans, which have been discussed for more than a week, would save jobs at McClellan, where 11,000 are employed, and Kelly, where another 15,000 work, said Mike McCurry, the White House press secretary.
"He's got to work through it," McCurry said. "He wants real employment numbers." If Clinton accepts the proposal, McCurry said, it would be "with reluctance."
One White House aide said, however, he would not rule out the possibility that Clinton could send the recommendations back to the Pentagon to answer further questions.
Under law, a politically insulated base closure commission recommends a proposal for closures to Clinton, giving him the choice of accepting or rejecting them in total. He must act by Saturday.
In this fourth and final round of closings, California stands to lose 19,372 military and civilian jobs. An additional 22,898 indirect jobs would be lost from declining demand in area service businesses, according to the commission.
Texas would lose 13,381 civilian and military jobs as a result of closures and realignments and 19,476 indirect jobs.
Nationwide, this fourth round of base closures would result in a net loss of 43,742 military and civilian jobs at bases and 49,823 indirect jobs for a total loss of 93,565 jobs.
According to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), California accounted for 88,000 of the 150,000 jobs lost nationwide to base closings in the last seven years.
The base closure commission most recently recommended that 79 bases be closed and 26 others realigned, saving $19.3 billion over 20 years.
Gen. Joshua Robles Jr., a member of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, said that senior defense officials had informed the commission staff that Clinton would approve the recommended closures.
"Although he didn't agree with all the decisions, as a package, as a whole, he had no choice because of the impact on the Department of Defense," he said.