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Ft. Holabird office added to closure list


WASHINGTON -- A defense investigations office at Fort Holabird was added yesterday to this year's list of Pentagon base closures, which already includes five Maryland military installations.

The Investigations Control and Automation Directorate is housed in the old Army intelligence school at Fort Holabird, most of which was closed in the 1970s with the loss of 1,300 military and 2,800 civilian jobs. It has since become an industrial park.

The office, part of the Defense Investigative Service (DIS), houses the personnel investigations center, which processes about 775,000 security clearances annually for employees of the Defense Department and defense contractors. It is also the national computer center for the investigative service.

The DIS building, which was built in the early 1950s, has had $300,000 in repairs since 1991. The Corps of Engineers recently estimated that it would cost $9.1 million to renovate the building.

The closure proposal would shift the directorate's 458 employees to a new facility at Fort Meade at a total cost of $11 million. The move, according to Pentagon estimates, would yield annual savings of $500,000 once the move is completed. The Pentagon analysis maintains that the transfer from one Maryland base to another would have little impact on the local economy.

"Everything stays right there in the immediate area," said Dale Hartig, spokesman for the Defense Investigative Service.

In 1988 the base closure commission decided to keep the investigative office open at Fort Holabird. If it is closed, the base will be vacant.

One of the last offices to occupy Fort Holabird, the Army Crime Records Center, completed relocating its 2.3 million criminal investigative files to Fort Belvoir, Va., earlier this month.

The relocation of the 65-employee records center was a recommendation of the 1988 base closure commission.

Plans to open a 40-bed residential treatment center for homeless men in the two vacant buildings have been delayed because of intense opposition from a Southeast Baltimore neighborhood.

The Army Corps of Engineers would have transferred the buildings to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which would have issued a lease to Nehemiah House, a church-affiliated group, to operate the shelter.

The investigations office at Fort Holabird was one of 29 military installations added by the commission yesterday at a Washington meeting to the list of 146 closures or realignments proposed by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry in March.

The commission also voted to consider closing the air base at Grand Forks, N.D., rather than just inactivating the Cold War missile group there, as originally recommended by Mr. Perry. Defense planners told the commission other missile bases could now ensure the national security. The commission also voted to add the Army's space and missile command at Huntsville, Ala., to the list.

Other newly targeted installations include the Portsmouth Naval Ship Yard, Maine; Oakland Army Base, Calif.; the Army depot at Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.; Vance Air Force Base, Okla.; Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas; and Air Reserve stations in Florida City, Fla.; Chicago; Minneapolis; Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Youngstown, Ohio; Fort Worth, Texas; and Milwaukee.

The commission also decided to review the Air Force claim that reducing the work force at all its major depots would be more economical than closing at least two of them.

It listed for further review the Air Force depots at Sacramento, Calif.; Warner Robins, Ga.; Oklahoma City; San Antonio; and Ogden, Utah.

"Because a base was added to the list today doesn't mean it will close or be realigned," said Alan J. Dixon, the former U.S. senator who chairs the base closure commission. "It means the commission believes a fuller evaluation of the base is a reasonable thing to undertake at this time."

He added: "We do not make additions to the list lightly."

Five Maryland installations were already tagged by the Pentagon for closure this year: Fort Ritchie, Cascade, Western Maryland; the Naval Surface Warfare Centers at Annapolis and White Oak; the Army Publications Distribution Center in Middle River; and the Naval Medical Research Institute, Bethesda.

If they are all closed, the state faces a net loss, after gains at other local bases are taken into account, of 1,211 civilian jobs and 481 military slots.

Local community representatives and Congress members testified in favor of keeping the Maryland bases open at a commission hearing earlier this month. The commission will hold hearings into the new proposals before it starts drawing up the final closure and realignment list on June 22 in Washington.

The commission must present its list to President Clinton by July 1.

The president then has 15 days to accept or reject the recommendations in their entirety. He cannot tinker with the list. If he rejects it, the list is re-worked by the commission. If he accepts it and forwards it to Capitol Hill, Congress then has 45 legislative days to accept or reject it in its entirety.

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