Defense Secretary Les Aspin denied Sunday that military bases in the congressional district of Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Berkeley) were recommended for closure because of Dellums' support for major cuts in Pentagon spending.
"Absolutely not true," Aspin said.
Dellums, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, had complained that he was the victim of retaliation for his political views.
Aspin said on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" that each of the military services made recommendations for base closings without knowing what other branches of the armed forces were doing. "So when you did an overlay, we found there was a big hit on Northern California," he said.
Because other bases in the area from Sacramento to the Monterey Peninsula and north to San Francisco had been closed previously, the Pentagon chief said, he removed McClellan Air Force Base, near Sacramento, and the Defense Language Institute at the Monterey Presido from his proposed shutdown list.
"It was just piling on," Aspin said. "So on the basis of cumulative (economic) impact, we're going to take a couple of these off. And the best cases . . . were Monterey and McClellan."
California lawmakers had lobbied heavily with the Clinton Administration to get some relief from the base closing process, citing previous shutdowns and the state's 9.8% unemployment rate.
The list of bases Aspin recommended for closure includes five installations in Dellums' district, including the Alameda Naval Air Station and the Oakland Naval Supply Center.
Asked whether any of the Oakland bases may be spared, Aspin said the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, an independent body, could alter the list.
"It (the commission) can add and subtract. . . . It's got a totally free hand. . . . They can do anything they want to that list."
The commission has until July 1 to make adjustments before presenting the list to President Clinton and Congress. It can approve or reject the entire list at that time but cannot make any changes.