Some bases tabbed for closure still open, study says


WASHINGTON -- After three rounds of closing military bases and with the biggest round still to come, more than one-third of the installations that were supposed to close have managed to stay open in some way, a new study by a business group says.

The operations that survive at 26 major bases that have been ordered shut since 1988 could cost the government more than $15 billion in the next five years, according to an analysis conducted by Business Executives for National Security, a private Washington-based organization that seeks to reduce spending and eliminate waste at the Pentagon.

The study, the results of which were to be made public today, says the Pentagon has allowed bases to stay open by unnecessarily transferring Defense Department offices and other federal agencies, as well as reserve military units. In some cases the special commissions that recommended the closings approved the changes in plans.

The study also faults local officials, many of whom fought closings in the first place, for embracing a continued federal presence rather than trying to rely entirely on commercial projects.

The findings, the most extensive to date on the status of the major military closings, raise questions about the savings the Pentagon has said it expects.

The Defense Department has estimated that when all the closings are complete, toward the end of the decade, savings will amount to $4.6 billion a year. Defense Secretary William J. Perry is relying heavily on this money to pay troops, to train them and to modernize weapons in the future.

Three special commissions, established by a law that sought to sidestep the political and bureaucratic tangles that normally arise when military bases are closed, met in 1988, 1991 and 1993.

The commissions listed about 70 major installations to close, and the recommendations were approved by Congress.

Since 1990, the Pentagon has reduced its forces by about 30 percent, but the number of bases has dropped by only about 15 percent, which means the military is paying for many more installations than it needs, military officials have said.

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