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Top Air Force General Favors ‘Superbases’

<i> From Associated Press</i>

The Air Force’s top general wants to create a handful of “superbases” in the United States by bolstering some and paring or closing others.

“This is an urgent issue,” Gen. Michael Ryan said in an interview. “We need to reorganize ourselves. We need to get rid of excess infrastructure.”

The pressure in recent years to put bases at overseas crisis points--Bosnia, the Middle East, Africa--has resulted in domestic bases being “stretched too thin,” Ryan said.

So the general is looking at consolidating support units at four to six bases in the United States. He would not specify which, saying he has asked his staff for a “template” of which bases should grow and which should be slimmed or closed. The service has 67 major bases in the United States and 14 abroad.

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The general’s proposal dovetails with moves by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, who has been pressing Congress for two additional rounds of base closures--and getting the cold shoulder in return. Cohen has told lawmakers that uniformed leaders support his conclusions on the need for base closures.

But Dan Kuehl, an air-power expert at the National Defense University in Washington, warned that such centralization of troops increases their vulnerability. Kuehl, who worked on a study of the Air Force and the Gulf War, said much of the service’s support equipment then “was stressed to the max” at a time when the Air Force was much larger.


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