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Feinstein Offers Plan to Counter Base Closures : Military: Senator urges consolidating the research and testing operations of eight Western facilities, including Point Mugu.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Trying to protect the Point Mugu Navy base from possible closure, Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday proposed that the base be joined with seven other military weapons-testing sites under one federal command.

Feinstein’s safety-in-numbers approach asks U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry to consider placing eight Western military bases under one central research and testing command.

“This proposal would help prevent future base closures in California and expand operations at the southwest bases, thus creating new jobs,” Feinstein said in a written statement.

“In addition, this proposal would reduce costs to the taxpayer and make our military more efficient.”

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Under the proposal, the southwestern command would oversee Point Mugu, its sister Navy base at China Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, Fort Irwin, the Twenty-nine Palms Marine Corps Base, the Yuma, Ariz., Proving Ground; the Utah Test and Training Range; and the Dugway, Utah, Proving Ground.

The plan would also centralize military research conducted at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Chocolate Mountain Gunnery Range and the Electronic Proving Ground at Fort Huachuca.

By consolidating the research facilities, all of the bases would be spared closure, thereby preventing economic ruin to the communities in which they are located, Feinstein said.

Officials have estimated that the Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station contributes about $1 billion a year to Ventura County’s economy.

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The letter, which was signed by Feinstein’s Democratic colleague, Sen. Barbara Boxer, and three other Western senators, notes that such a move might initially be viewed with suspicion by the different branches of the armed forces.

As proposed, the Southwest Air Systems Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation Complex would strip independent control of testing and evaluation from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and place it under a single federal command.

“We are sensitive to the fact that each of these facilities is presently being managed by their respective services as independent activities performing their own service-specific work,” Feinstein wrote.

But she said the notion of creating an inter-service command was generated by a similar proposal offered by the Navy and the Air Force in 1992.

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Point Mugu spokesman Alan Alpers said he believed the Navy might show some support for the initiative, given concern about the upcoming round of base closures.

“We think it certainly has interesting possibilities,” Alpers said.

“It certainly drives forward the issue of joint-servicing and is in keeping with the overall goals of the move to downsize and make more efficient the armed services.”

He pointed out that the Navy and Air Force are working together on the development of an Air Force missile at Point Mugu.

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