WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is proposing the most sweeping changes in modern history to its network of military bases, a plan that would close 33 major facilities in 22 states and reconfigure hundreds of others to achieve savings and promote cooperation among the armed services.
The 33 closings that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld proposed yesterday are more than any of the previous four rounds of closings. He also would close or reduce the personnel at hundreds of smaller facilities that would remain open. Overall, Rumsfeld said his plan would save $48.8 billion over 20 years while making the military more mobile and better suited for the global effort against terrorism.
Rumsfeld's proposal calls for a massive shift of US forces, leading to a net loss of 29,005 military and civilian jobs, including personnel who would be moved home from overseas. He proposed cutting a total of 218,570 military and civilian positions from some bases while adding 189,565 positions to others, Pentagon documents show. The closures and downsizings would occur over six years starting in 2006.
Rumsfeld also recommended pulling thousands of troops and civilian workers out of 29 large bases that would remain open, while adding at least 400 jobs to each of 49 domestic bases, with troops and other workers coming from other US facilities or abroad.
Among the major closures were Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, which would lose more than 2,700 jobs, the Naval Station in Ingleside, Texas, costing more than 2,100 jobs, and Fort McPherson in Georgia, costing nearly 4,200 jobs.
One major closure Rumsfeld seeks is Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, home to 29 B-1B bombers, half the nation's fleet of the aircraft.
Of the facilities that would be realigned, probably the best-known is not a base, but a hospital --Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. The century-old hospital, which has treated presidents and foreign leaders as well as soldiers and veterans, would shift some of its services and of its 5,630 staff to an expanded health care facility on the campus of the National Naval Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, Md.
Other major bases -- including the Army's Fort Bliss in Texas, the Naval Shipyard in Norfolk, Va., and Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland -- would see gains, as they absorb troops whose current home bases are slated for closure.
Many of the states that fared well are in the South and Southwest.
Before closures or downsizings can take effect, the plan must be approved or changed by a federal commission by Sept. 8, then agreed to by Congress and President Bush.