WASHINGTON -- An independent commission said yesterday that it is considering another 36 military installations as "preliminary candidates for closure," including five of the Navy's brand-new home ports, long criticized as a billion-dollar boondoggle.
The bases may join a slate of 43 installations previously nominated by the Pentagon as part of its post-Cold War, cost-cutting strategy. Within the next four weeks, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission must review all the candidate bases, arrive at a final closure list, and then offer that list for all-or-nothing approval by President Bush and Congress.
"I have said all along that we won't rubber-stamp the defense secretary's proposals," commission Chairman Jim Courter said in a statement released with the new list. "And I have cautioned everyone not to assume that their installation is safe just because it is not included in the Pentagon's report."
The commission's director of communications, Cary Walker, declined to say how the bases on the new list were chosen, but acknowledged that the home ports were included on the strength of a still-secret General Accounting Office report that calls them "unnecessary and costly."
It will cost more than $1 billion to complete the home ports in Staten Island, N.Y., Pascagoula, Miss., Mobile, Ala., Everett, Wash., and Ingleside, Texas.
Other major facilities on the commission's list include Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, Plattsburgh Air Force Base in New York, Long Beach Naval Shipyard in California, and San Diego Naval Training Center in California.
None of the facilities on the new list is in Maryland.
Many of the bases on the list are among those that the military downgraded in initial reviews, but then chose not to shut down because of extenuating circumstances. For example, Air Force officials have said South Florida's Homestead plays a key role in drug-interdiction efforts.
In a statement, the commission said that some of the bases on its new list are being studied as alternatives to bases proposed by the Pentagon, but it did not specify which these were.
Mr. Walker took pains to emphasize the tentative nature of the commission's proposals, saying that they will be whittled down in a public hearing Thursday and that only those remaining bases will officially become "candidates for closure." Perhaps as a result of his caution, reaction to many of the proposals was muted.
"I'm confident Everett makes sense on the merits, and I don't expect it to be closed," said Representative Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who had sought that new base for his area.
Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher, who represents Long Beach, expressed the hope that the home ports would ultimately emerge as a better choice for closure than a host of existing naval facilities, including those at Long Beach.