WASHINGTON (AP) _ The amount of U.S. military base capacity that can be considered surplus and vulnerable to being closed or consolidated is less than had previously been estimated, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

Rumsfeld said he had no specific estimate of how much base capacity is surplus, but he noted that the Clinton administration had put it in the 20 to 25 percent range.

``It looks now like the actual number will be less than the lower end of that range,'' he told a news conference. ``How much less remains to be seen.''

The reason for lowering the estimate of surplus base capacity is that tens of thousands of U.S. troops who are based abroad are going to be relocated to domestic bases in coming years.

The Pentagon is due to submit its list of recommended base closures and realignments in May.

Rumsfeld's chief spokesman, Lawrence Di Rita, said later that the administration had told Congress that it believed about 24 percent of base capacity was surplus. Rumsfeld said the actual figure would be lower than that, and he suggested that it would be lower than 20 percent.