GAO requests details on Navy base cuts


WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon's controversial plan to close 43 military facilities and reduce forces at 28 others was based on adequate information from the U.S. Army and Air Force, although the Navy supplied "inadequate documentation" to support its recommendations, the General Accounting Office reported yesterday.

The report by the GAO, Congress' auditing watchdog, recommended that Defense Secretary Dick Cheney require the Navy to give "specific details" about how it came up with its closure and realignment recommendations to an independent commission that is reviewing the list.

"This does not mean that the Navy bases should not be closed," the report said. "However, since the Navy did not document the rationale for its decisions, GAO was unable to analyze its specific closure and realignment recommendations."

In a cost-cutting move last month, Mr. Cheney recommended the closings and consolidations based on the advice of the military branches, saying the net gain from the recommendations would be about $850 million. But some lawmakers termed the list a partisan attack on Democratic districts and others vowed to take their fight to the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, an eight-member panel that has the power to add or delete to the list.

The Navy recommended that nine bases around the nation be closed, including the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and the Naval Station Long Beach in California, as well as 11 smaller facilities, including the Naval Electronics Systems Engineering Activity at St. Inigoes in St. Mary's County.

Seventeen Navy facilities would be among the 28 marked for realignment or reductions, including the David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis; Naval Ordnance Station, Indian Head; and Naval Surface Warfare Center Detachment in White Oak.

The GAO report gave a sense of relief to at least one Maryland lawmaker who has criticized the Navy for targeting a facility in his district.

"I think the GAO gave the Navy a failing grade in the way they handled this thing," said Representative Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, whose district includes the Taylor Research Center, slated to lose 548 jobs in a realignment. "Basically they're sending them back to square one in my view."

Mr. McMillen said the Navy's claims that it would save $5.6 million over 10 years by scaling back the center do not take into consideration cleanup costs at the facility.

The Crofton Democrat has said that the Navy labs should not have been added to the base-closing list in the first place, since a separate review board is slated to come up with a consolidation plan for the labs in September.

Meanwhile, Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, whose district includes NESEA in St. Inigoes -- the only Maryland facility to close under the Pentagon's recommendations -- said he still had to review the report. Some 1,000 workers are slated to lose their jobs at the St. Inigoes facility.

The Pentagon did not immediately have a comment on the report.

Besides failing to document its decision-making, the GAO said, the Navy also did not come up with an "internal control plan" to ensure the "validity and accuracy" of information used in its recommendations.

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