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Friday, May 13, 2005 | A military office for finances and accounting is the only San Diego defense facility listed in the base closure suggestions released Friday morning by the Department of Defense, although the proposed net loss of military-related personnel in the county topped 1,000.
“There are some puts and takes, but no major closures,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. “San Diego basically escapes this round of base closures unscathed, but the battle is not over.”
The Pentagon proposed shutting down 150 military centers nationwide, including 33 major bases. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld estimated the federal government would save $48.8 billion over 20 years if his recommended closures are approved by President Bush and Congress.
Much of the list is comprised of realignments, with shifts in bases’ troop and civilian numbers. Bases with proposed net gains in personnel include Naval Station San Diego (1,170 persons), Naval Base Pt. Loma (309) and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (72). Bases doled proposed losses include Naval Medical Center San Diego (1,630), Naval Base Coronado (460), Camp Pendleton (144) and Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook (118).
The accounting office slated for closure, located in Kearny Mesa, is among the 13 branches of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service the Pentagon recommends to be shut down. About 240 employees work from the site.
The Kearny Mesa office handles about $358 million annually in disbursements for operations including the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and the Special Warfare Command. Capt. Julie E. Webb, the office’s commanding officer, was not immediately available for comment.
Local leaders had pointed to military value of the synergy between the Marine Corps and Navy services in San Diego County.
“The focus is joint operations,” Hunter said. “Training where everyone is integrated and locked together, that’s the future of the military.”
The nine-member, appointed BRAC panel will mull the Pentagon’s list before submitting a revision to President Bush by Sept. 8. Fifteen days later, the president will announce whether he has approved the commission’s realignment plan wholesale.
If Bush approves, the commission’s plan becomes permanent after 45 days unless both houses of Congress vote to nix it. If the president or Congress does not approve BRAC’s plan, the commission has until Oct. 20 to submit a new plan.
A revised plan must be approved by Bush and Congress by Nov. 7 or the process ends.
Since 1988, there have been four previous rounds of BRAC that closed 97 bases and made 55 major realignments to the military’s infrastructure nationwide.
With the Pentagon’s suggested list in mind, the commission will consider 11 Navy and Marine Corps major facilities in the county: the Navy’s San Diego naval station, North Island air station, Imperial Beach landing field, Coronado amphibious base, Point Loma base and Fallbrook weapons station detachment; the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton, Miramar air station and Recruit Depot San Diego; the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command centers, also called SPAWAR; and the Naval Medical Center in Balboa Park.
Historically, about 10 percent of the Pentagon’s recommendations are changed, experts said.
Hunter applauded the efforts by local boosters to advocate the protection of San Diego bases from closure.
“California, San Diego and Mayor (Dick) Murphy did a good job making their cases, but at the end of the day, military value was the most important,” Hunter said.
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