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Two Bases Back on U.S. Closure List : Military: The Northern California sites had won a reprieve after heavy lobbying. But restoration to the list was expected and doesn’t ensure the closings.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission voted Monday to put McClellan Air Force Base and the Army’s Presidio language institute in Monterey back on a list of major military facilities being considered for closure to trim U.S. defense spending.

The action, which had been expected, means California has 10 major bases, shipyards, hospitals, supply depots or training centers on the so-called hit list, far more than any other state.

The two Northern California bases won a short-lived reprieve two weeks ago when Defense Secretary Les Aspin dropped them from the original list of base-closure candidates offered by individual branches of the armed services.

An intense lobbying campaign by the state’s congressional delegation and state and local officials convinced the Clinton Administration that the closures would deal too harsh an economic blow to the state, already suffering from previous rounds of base closings and a general decline in defense and aerospace spending.

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But early last week, commission Chairman James A. Courter said the bases probably would be restored to dispel any suggestion that politics had played a role in their being dropped.

The commission voted 7 to 0 to add the two California bases, as well as a naval training center in Great Lakes, Ill., and the Naval Air Station in Agana, Guam.

The additions bring the total of major bases considered for closure to 35, with dozens of smaller installations targeted for realignment or staff reductions. The closure commission will vote on its final list of recommendations by June 1 and submit the list to President Clinton by July 1.

Courter said the action showed that the commission is more than just an extension of the Pentagon. But he said the panel was not putting the bases back on the list merely to make a point.

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“We’re doing it because we think it’s prudent and responsible. It’s not a slap in the face at anybody,” Courter said.

Members of the state’s congressional delegation, who had worked feverishly to reduce the number of targeted bases in the state, greeted the news with resignation and caution.

“I am concerned that the commission chose to ignore the President and the secretary of defense’s action. Clearly, this process will be a battle all the way,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

"(The) vote was a technical step in the process,” said Rep. Vic Fazio (D-West Sacramento), whose district encompasses the McClellan base. “This in no way reflects the final decision on McClellan.”

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Gov. Pete Wilson, who arrived in Washington over the weekend, held a news conference to decry the vote. “Obviously, I’m not pleased about that. I think we’ve taken a disproportionate hit,” he said.

Several commissioners said the action to return the two California bases to the list does not mean they are going to be closed.

“All we are doing is giving the communities a chance to make their case, which the department of defense has not done,” said Commissioner Rebecca G. Cox, the wife of Newport Beach Republican Rep. Christopher Cox.

The action on Great Lakes Naval Training Center outside of Chicago means all that three of the Navy’s recruit training centers, including sites in San Diego and Orlando, Fla., will be under consideration for closure.

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Times staff writer Daniel Weintraub contributed to this story.


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