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Flank Attack Launched to Bar Presidio Closing

Times Staff Writer

The Pentagon on Thursday ratified a plan to close dozens of military bases around the nation, but a flank attack to save the historic Presidio in San Francisco was launched by two Northern California congresswomen.

Reps. Barbara Boxer (D-Greenbrae) and Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said they will seek to block any funds for shutting down the 6th Army headquarters and Letterman Hospital during consideration of the military appropriations bill this spring.

“We find it ludicrous to spend money to close a base that will cost more money closed than open,” the two lawmakers said in a letter to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense appropriations subcommittee. Murtha has promised to visit the Presidio before making a decision.

Boxer said the Presidio is the only base on the Pentagon’s shutdown list that would be turned over to another federal agency--the Department of the Interior--if it were closed as a military installation. By law, the 1,400-acre site becomes part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area if it is no longer required by the Army.

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“In other words, maintenance costs get shifted from one federal agency to another,” Boxer and Pelosi contended. in their letter to Murtha. Besides, they said, the military missions carried out by the Presidio would not be eliminated but only transferred to other Army posts.

The two California Democrats all but acknowledged that they have little chance of persuading Congress to reject a proposal endorsed Thursday by Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci to shut down scores of Army, Navy and Air Force facilities and consolidate functions at others.

Under the base-closing law approved by Congress last year, the shutdowns will take effect starting in 1990, unless both the Senate and House vote to disapprove the entire package by April 15.

But members of Congress trying to preserve a base in their districts have another option--an appeal to the House Appropriations Committee to bar the use of any federal funds for shutdown expenses of a particular base, including environmental cleanups. If the House approves such a measure and the Senate concurs, the base would remain open even though the overall base-closing plan goes into effect.

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Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has warned that there may be some “shenanigans” by members of Congress trying to avoid the elimination of a military installation in their district, although he predicted that the base-closing package would not be turned down.

“This isn’t a shenanigan,” Boxer told a reporter. “We’re trying to keep open a historic facility and save the taxpayers money. Murtha’s the key. If we can prove to him that it will cost more to close the Presidio than to keep it open, he indicated he would go along with us.”

At stake in the fight over the Presidio are 3,200 civilian and 2,100 military jobs, making the base the fifth largest employer in San Francisco, with an annual payroll of $148 million.


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