Officials expressed little concern Thursday that any San Diego County bases would be targeted for closing under a congressional plan to help the Pentagon shut obsolete military facilities.
“Nothing has ever been targeted in San Diego,” said Linda Royster, an aide to Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.). “San Diego is one of the better-known and more important military facilities in the nation.” The bases in San Diego are “so critical to the Navy I can’t imagine any scenario under which those facilities would be closed,” she said.
With 130,000 people on active duty in San Diego, its suburbs and Camp Pendleton, the military is the single largest employer in the region, according to the San Diego Assn. of Governments, and military bases as well as defense contractors contribute roughly $9.2 billion in Defense Department expenditures to the area each year.
“We’re still building up here. We’re not slimming down,” said Chief Petty Officer Craig Huebler, a spokesman for the San Diego Naval Station. Huebler said there are no early indications that any San Diego facilities may be closed.
No Reason to Worry
Paul Downey, a spokesman for Mayor Maureen O’Connor, said Thursday that the mayor’s office has received no indications of closings in San Diego. “Most of the ones we have are fairly major installations, and we would be surprised if any were shut down,” Downey said. “We’re in fairly constant touch with the congressional offices and military liaisons and haven’t heard anything.”
Among the military facilities in San Diego County are Miramar Naval Air Station, North Island Naval Air Station, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, the Naval Training Center, an amphibious base, a submarine base and the huge Naval Hospital in Balboa Park.
Under the base-closing legislation passed by the House and Senate Wednesday and expected to be signed by President Reagan, an independent commission would recommend by Dec. 31 a list of bases to be closed or cut in size.
Wilson voted in favor of the bill Wednesday, but whether he will object if the new commission selects any of the California bases for closing remains to be seen, Royster said.
“He does not intend to interject himself in process,” she said. “If it turns out he has violent objections to the conclusions of the panel, based on firm facts at his disposal, then we will see.”
An aide to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Coronado) said Thursday that five bases in California have been put on a list “for discussion purposes” by an ad hoc group of Republican congressmen who have attempted to identify potential closing sites.
“The list we have seen has not included any Southern California bases at all,” said John Palafoutas, administrative assistant to Hunter. It is highly unlikely, Palafoutas said, that any of the major facilities in San Diego such as North Island Naval Air Station, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and the Naval Training Center, will be targeted.
“Their mission is just so vital it’s inconceivable they would be shut down,” Palafoutas said.
Vital Air Depot
North Island has a critical Naval air depot, one of only six in the country used to repair aircraft. Four of the six are on the East Coast, Palafoutas said, making a closure in California unlikely. “North Island services a lot of the Western states as well as the Pacific fleet,” Palafoutas said.
“They’re not going to be moving fast on this,” Palafoutas added. “It’s pretty volatile, and it affects a lot of people’s lives.”
About 26,000 recruits undergo training each year at the Naval Training Command on Point Loma, and another 33,000 Navy personnel attend basic and advanced courses there each year.
Questions about whether to close the Marine Corps Recruit Depot near downtown San Diego and move it to Camp Pendleton were raised about 10 years ago, according to Maj. Jerry Broeckert, an MCRD spokesman, but a Defense Department study concluded that it should remain where it is. Since then, the Defense Department has invested $120 million in construction at the existing site, making a move now unlikely, Broeckert said.
More than 22,000 Marines entered boot camp at the MCRD last year, and 2,670 personnel are permanently assigned there, he said.
Jack Koerper, a military specialist for the San Diego Assn. of Governments, said Thursday he has been in touch with officials at a number of local bases and has concluded that San Diego’s bases will not be among those marked for closing. “Almost every one of the military bases I can think of are very active,” he said.