Pentagon Proposes Closing Almost 180 U.S. Military Bases
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TERENCE SMITH: The base closings proposed by the Pentagon today are the most sweeping since the process began in 1988. Included among them are 33 major bases as well as scores of smaller facilities.
Overall, some 837 bases will be affected, many of those actually gaining people and functions. The proposed closings cut across geographic and political lines, shutting bases in red states as well as blue.
Next, an independent commission will review the Pentagon list and make a final judgment by September. In past closings, the commission has approved more than 80 percent of the Pentagon recommendations.
TERENCE SMITH: For more on this, we turn to Undersecretary of Defense Michael Wynne. Mr. Secretary, welcome.
Tell us how you decided which bases to close, what criteria you applied and what you didn’t.
MICHAEL WYNNE: Thank you, Terry, it is a pleasure to be here, by the way. We really look at military value. We were charged by the president to transform the military forces. We looked at impacts from capacity, surge, mobilization.
We’re moving towards an agile and expeditionary force. So we were very concerned about how we could mobilize and making sure we didn’t — if you will — get down to a single point of failure.
TERENCE SMITH: Did you consider the economic impact on the communities, or is that not something you’re charged?
MICHAEL WYNNE: No, actually, Criteria No. 8, from a set of criteria that was codified by Congress, in fact, talks about — I think it’s No. 6, but there’s a specific criteria that talks about taking into account the economic impact on communities. And though it’s been dominated by military value in our analysis, we did consider it.
TERENCE SMITH: What about history and tradition? For example, the Groton Submarine Base in New London, that goes back to 1872.
MICHAEL WYNNE: Yes, sir, it certainly does. In that particular instance, I think the Navy was looking at making sure they could maintain two submarine bases, nuclear submarine bases on the East Coast and on the West Coast. And I believe that’s where they’ve gone to.
TERENCE SMITH: Now it obviously costs money to close bases. Have you figured out what the net savings is when you take into account those expenditures?
MICHAEL WYNNE: Yes, we have. We actually save about net $2 for every dollar that we spend. We’re planning on spending and investing about $24 billion, and so we’re netting just under $49 billion over a net present value over a 20-year period.
TERENCE SMITH: You are — you’re proposing to close some bases and to use your language, realign others. What does that mean?
MICHAEL WYNNE: A realignment is really a movement of functions that perhaps were grown locally on the base, that were really pieces of functions from other bases. What we found, for example, was two or three places where we used to do information operations.
We can now consolidate those information operations to one base. We had some contracting activities that grew, but with the new e-commerce and e-business we could actually consolidate those contracting activities — for each of the moved functions that is a realignment.
TERENCE SMITH: You are also proposing, the Pentagon is, to bring home a substantial number of troops from overseas bases. Are some of these realigned bases going to accommodate them?
MICHAEL WYNNE: Well, in fact, we were very well informed by the Integrated Global Posture Review that considers movement of troops and airmen and naval personnel from all over the world. Sometimes what we had to do was — was not just to take on that load at one base but, in fact, to move people from base, from that base to another base where it made sense to make accommodation for all.
TERENCE SMITH: Now, not surprisingly, politicians of both parties have come out upset about this, this afternoon. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, for example, said that the Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod, he described as the number one base for homeland security on the East Coast. He says it makes no sense in a post 9/11 world to close a base like that.
MICHAEL WYNNE: Well, homeland defense was one of our considerations as we considered all of the missions. And though I’m not versed in talking military operational considerations, I do know that we had the combatant commanders, specifically NORTHCOM, and our homeland defense group to review all of our closures, and I will tell you that it will not hamper us from defending America.
TERENCE SMITH: Now it’s not just Democrats. Republicans as well are upset. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota has vowed to fight to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base, which is a very big base and a very big employer in his state.
MICHAEL WYNNE: Yes, I would say that we have a lot of empathy for those communities that are surrounded by our states; we know that we have partnered with them for a long period of time. We have a lot of assistance that we intend to provide. The president just signed an executive order offering a multi-department assistance to those affected communities. And so we have a lot of tools that are at our beck and call, if you will, and we hope to be able to assist those communities through this challenge.
TERENCE SMITH: Well, this is the fifth round of closings since 1988. What does history tell us here? Have they, in the past, been damaging to some communities and actually helpful to others?
MICHAEL WYNNE: Well, it’s been a challenge for all communities that are affected. But those that have dedicated themselves to economic redevelopment and really got a strong leader and a manager together, then partnered with the Department of Defense, have, in fact, done a remarkable job of not only recovering, but actually improving their employment characteristics. I would point to Fort Ord as one that was really –
TERENCE SMITH: In California?
MICHAEL WYNNE: Yes, sir, in California. And Fort Ord was very well impacted, stopped in time, if you will, but had a very dedicated leadership team that worked with us. And they are now well recovered.
TERENCE SMITH: And that’s got, I know, a college campus, I think on it.
MICHAEL WYNNE: Yes, sir.
TERENCE SMITH: And what else?
MICHAEL WYNNE: It’s got a light industrial park; it’s got a college campus. They have really, I think, done a remarkable job of, if you will, reusing the property and reusing the facilities that were there.
TERENCE SMITH: Is it possible to say that it’s actually a net increase in jobs, or is that going too far?
MICHAEL WYNNE: I believe it was, except that there were a lot of soldiers on Fort Ord, so I’m not — I’m not that versed.
TERENCE SMITH: Okay. Secretary Michael Wynne, thank you very much for telling us about it.
MICHAEL WYNNE: You’re very welcome, sir.