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Cheney May Cancel 207 More Military Projects : Defense: Congress already has approved the threatened plans. A previous freeze on other construction is extended.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a bald political challenge to Congress, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney on Tuesday extended the current freeze on $7 billion in military construction projects and said he is considering canceling 207 additional projects that already have been approved by lawmakers.

The cancellations potentially will cost thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in local revenues in congressional districts spread across 21 states. Projects in a dozen countries overseas will be studied for possible cancellation as well.

Military construction projects ranging from bachelor housing at the El Centro Naval airfield in California to a day-care center at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Dahlgren, Va., will be reviewed for possible termination, the Defense Department said. Construction or improvements at scores of facilities in West Germany and elsewhere in Europe will be delayed or killed as a result of Tuesday’s order.

Cheney was unapologetic about the economic impact of the proposed actions, noting with sarcasm that Congress’ desire to slash billions of dollars from the Administration’s $306.9-billion defense budget request has unavoidable consequences.

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“What the Congress ought to understand is that cutting the budget means cutting the budget,” Cheney said at a Pentagon press conference. “There are a lot of members of Congress who would like to be able . . . to go out on the floor and vote to cut the defense budget and then pick up the telephone and call me and say: ‘Dick, you’re not going to shut my base down, are you? You’re not going to close down my production line? You’re not going to shut down my home port?’

“There’s a certain amount of hypocrisy involved in that.”

Cheney made the announcement as the House began debating a 1991 budget that would cut about $24 billion from President Bush’s defense plan, but the defense secretary denied that his review list was meant as a warning to Congress. He called the timing of his announcement “fortuitous.”

The move follows by a week Cheney’s announcement that he was scaling back four major aircraft programs, including cutting the number of B-2 Stealth bombers to be purchased to 75 from the originally planned 132. Under other Pentagon cost-cutting proposals, military manpower would shrink by 300,000 over the next four years, scores of bases would close and dozens of procurement and research programs would be trimmed or killed because of declining global tensions and continuing stress on the federal budget.

Cheney originally imposed a 90-day moratorium on new military construction contracts on Jan. 24 as a budget-cutting move. The freeze affected more than $7 billion in planned projects.

On Tuesday Cheney extended the freeze until June 15 and raised the possibility of killing the 207 additional projects, citing “enormous uncertainty” about the size and shape of the 1991 Pentagon budget, which is under review by Congress.

He ordered Deputy Defense Secretary Donald J. Atwood to study the list of planned military construction projects and submit a list of proposed cancellations, or recisions, by June 1. Congress then would have to approve or reject them in a process certain to involve intense horse-trading among members desperate to save jobs and income in their districts.

“There’s no question but what a large number of these projects on the list of 207, plus additional ones, will ultimately have to be canceled,” Cheney said. “There’ll be no way we can go forward with that $7 billion in construction projects if we’re going to have to significantly cut” from the Administration’s defense spending request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

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On his review “hit list,” which totals an additional $1.2 billion, are four of the Navy’s six new strategic home ports, including Staten Island, N.Y., which is nearly complete; Ingleside, Tex; Mobile, Ala.; and Pascagoula, Miss. Those not included on the review list and that appear to be safe are in Everett, Wash., and Pensacola, Fla.

After repeating his “cutting the budget means cutting the budget” line for the third time, Cheney said: “It means (cutting) personnel; it means procurement; it means bases; it means military construction; it means everything right across the board.”

Many of the projects to be reviewed are at bases in Europe that may be closed or merged as a result of expected large American troop withdrawals from the continent arising from conventional-force negotiations with the Soviets.

Others are new facilities or improvements on domestic bases--such as an air crew lounge at Beale Air Force Base near Marysville or a new gym at the Mobile, Ala., Naval Station--that would improve the quality of life for GIs but would have little direct impact on national security.

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Among the larger items on the list of threatened projects are $60 million in improvements at Ft. Hood, Tex., $37 million for a maintenance facility at Tooele, Utah, and a $110-million rocket test facility at Arnold, Tenn.

Tennessee is the home state of Democratic Sen. Jim Sasser, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and an advocate of deep cuts in the Pentagon budget.

“Some of these actions may not be popular with members of Congress who want to cut the defense budget even as they plead to save the projects in their own states and districts,” Cheney said. “But when tight budgets force dedicated soldiers to turn in their uniforms and leave the service, I cannot put construction projects ahead of people.”

Projects in California that are on the Cheney cancellation list: Automated Record Fire Range, Ft. Ord, $2.45 million; Microwave/Radar Maintenance Facility, Sacramento Army Depot, $3.9 million; Bachelor Enlisted Quarters, Naval Air Field El Centro, $880 million; Child Care Center, Naval Air Station Moffett Field, $1 million.

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Also, Water Supply System, San Francisco, $3.55 million; Missile Engagement Simulation Arena, China Lake, $17.5 million; Family Housing, Moffett Field, $6.6 million; Family Housing, San Francisco, $28.4 million; Alert Crew Facility, Beale Air Force Base, $3.1 million; Dormitory, Beale AFB, $5.6 million; Aircraft Weather Shelter, Beale AFB, $3.52 million; Upgrade Alert Complex, Beale AFB, $1.25 million.


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