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Marine Recruit Depot Could Be Closed

The San Diego boot camp wasn't on the Pentagon's list, but it will be considered, the panel chairman says.

June 09, 2005|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — The Base Realignment and Closure Commission will consider whether to add the Marine Corps Recruit Depot here to the list of bases recommended for closure by the Pentagon, the commission's chairman said Wednesday.

Anthony Principi, the former Veterans Affairs secretary, said commissioners want to see whether money could be saved by closing the recruit depot, next to Lindbergh Field, and shifting training to Camp Pendleton.

"In the final analysis, what's best for the war fighters" is the top priority, Principi told a news conference. "Every dollar wasted in excess capacity is a dollar we can't spend on bullets and training."

Although it was not included in the Pentagon's closure list unveiled May 13, the recruit depot is "clearly one of the bases that will be considered" for closure, Principi said.

While military boosters in San Diego were joyous to see that the recruit depot was not on the list, controversy flared anew when Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee told the commission a few days later that the corps had recommended the training depot be closed but withdrew the option after studying the cost of moving its operations.

Principi said the Navy and Air Force, while larger than the Marine Corps, have only one recruit training facility each, while the Marine Corps still has two boot camps, at San Diego and Parris Island, S.C.

The San Diego boot camp trains 16,000 recruits a year and has 1,725 Marines and sailors and 900 civilians assigned to it.

Principi and other commissioners are touring military bases throughout the nation before a series of hearings to consider the closure and downsizing recommendations of the Pentagon. A hearing is tentatively set for July 14 in Los Angeles.

Adding a base to the Pentagon's list requires seven votes on the nine-member commission. In past closure rounds, only five votes were needed to add or strike a base from the list.

Among the issues to be discussed before submitting the list to President Bush by Sept. 8 is the transfer of personnel from Navy facilities at Point Mugu and Norco to the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. Principi said commissioners want to see whether the desert base can accommodate such a "transfer of brainpower."

Several members of Congress have expressed frustration that the Pentagon has not released information it used to develop its list. But Principi said sifting through the voluminous information to safeguard classified material has taken time.

"Hopefully this week and next week we'll have the data we'll need," he said.

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