Congressional Agency Faults Navy for Base Closing Process With AM-Base Closings
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Navy’s process for selecting bases to be closed was fraught with problems and resulted in recommendations that will leave the service with excess space, congressional investigators said Thursday.
The General Accounting Office said that the Army and Air Force documented an adequate system for selecting bases for closing, but that there was ″inadequate documentation of the process used by the Navy.″
During the selection process, the Navy established a Base Structure Committee but found that the input from its working group favored keeping bases open. The Navy then turned to its various Navy and Marine Corps headquarters officials and representatives for recommendations.
The outcome, according to the General Accounting Office, is that the Navy will have excess space to berth its ships even if the bases recommended for closure are accepted by President Bush and Congress.
The report by Congress’ investigative agency is a general overview of the process used by the Defense Department in selecting bases for closure or realignment.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney recommended last month the closure of 43 domestic bases and the realignment of 28 others, including major facilities such as Fort Ord in California, Fort McClellan in Alabama and the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
The list was submitted to the eight-member, independent Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which must approve or amend the list before sending it on to Bush and the Congress on July 1.
Even before the General Accounting Office’s report was printed, lawmakers were arguing to keep the Philadelphia facility open.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey lawmakers said at a Capitol Hill news conference that the Navy had not provided all information pertinent to the recommendation that the shipyard be closed.
″I would hope we could get the underlying data upon which the Navy has made its judgments,″ said Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J.
Navy Lt. Phillip McGuinn said he had not seen the General Accounting Office report and could not comment on it specifically. But McGuinn said a four- volume set of documents related to base closings was available for public review.
″All of the information that we have provided to the commission has also been made available to Congress and to the interested public and the media,″ he said.
In its report, the congressional agency also said it found inaccuracies in the information the Defense Department used in assessing the costs and savings from closing and realigning bases.
But the agency said, ″Overall, GAO believes that the recommendations made for base closings and realignments offer an opportunity for substantial savings.″
The Pentagon has estimated that in fiscal 1998 and beyond the department will save about $1.7 billion a year in reduced operating costs.
The GAO said the Army’s process of selecting bases was well documented and ″the resulting recommendations were well supported.″ The Air Force used a rationale that was ″adequately supported by documentation.″