Robert Burns: The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has advised President Bush that a plan presented to the White House last week for closing 22 major military bases and realigning 33 others will yield large savings, even though fewer bases would be closed than Rumsfeld wanted, a Pentagon official said Monday.
Lawrence Di Rita, spokesman for Rumsfeld, would not say whether Rumsfeld recommended that Bush accept the plan as presented by an independent base-closing commission. But Di Rita emphasized that there would be “substantial annual recurring savings” if the plan were implemented.
In the report it submitted to the president last Friday, the base-closing commission said its recommendations will result in annual savings of $4.2 billion, compared with $5.4 billion under the plan it received last May from Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld had recommended closing 33 major bases and realigning 29 others.
“The next step in the process is that the president will decide whether or not he’s going to send it to the Congress as is,” Di Rita said. “The general view is that … the commission made decisions that will result in substantial savings, even though savings that are less than we proposed.” He added that some aspects of the commission’s recommendations need to be studied further to understand their ramifications.
Bush has until Sept. 23 to either accept the commission’s report and forward it to Congress or return it to the commission for further work. Forty-five days after Bush sends it to Congress the report becomes final unless Congress enacts a joint resolution to reject the report in full.
The base-closing commission differed with the Pentagon on several aspects of the financial implications of closures. For example, the commission said the Pentagon “routinely failed to properly account for” the added costs that would be incurred by non-military agencies that use a portion of a base that is being closed.