Relief plan would aid workers from closed bases


WASHINGTON -- President Clinton was planning to unveil a new relief package today for workers and communities expected to be hit in this year's round of military base closings, but the effort is likely to be a modest one, according to administration officials.

Administration strategists said yesterday Mr. Clinton will release about $80 million in grants for workers and localities that had been approved by Congress in the fiscal 1993 budget, but was frozen by the Bush administration.

He also will approve the use of $1.35 billion in unspent funds -- part of last year's broader congressional "defense conversion" program -- to provide early retirement incentives for military personnel and Department of Defense workers and to help subsidize efforts by smaller defense companies to develop products to sell in commercial markets.

Officials said the administration will ask Congress for about $1.7 billion in defense conversion funds for fiscal 1994, which begins Oct. 1 -- the same amount that Congress originally appropriated for the current fiscal year, most of which Mr. Bush had declined to spend.

Even so, both government and private analysts said the money was not likely to go very far in helping workers -- especially those in the slumping California economy -- who may be laid off in the HTC current round of base closings. Analysts say most such programs have only a marginal impact and that the real solution to creating new jobs for displaced workers is to spur the economy.

Secretary of Defense Les Aspin is scheduled to begin the base-closing process Friday by unveiling a list of suggested shutdowns that he will send to the independent Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. That panel has until July 1 to recommend closures.

Defense officials have speculated that the closure list will include at least 30 major military installations, with recommendations that as many as 150 others -- mainly depots and smaller sites -- be consolidated or cut back.

Part of the Navy plan proposes the consolidation of naval facilities into two or three "megaports," possibly at Norfolk, Va., Kings Bay, Ga., or San Diego. The Navy also would close its aviation depot at Pensacola, Fla., and a shipyard in Charleston, S.C.

Mr. Aspin, who was on Capitol Hill yesterday conferring with lawmakers from affected states, has warned that this year's list will be especially long -- "The mother of all base-closing lists," as he put it.

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