WASHINGTON -- The latest plan to close or reorganize military bases is scheduled to be sent to the Clinton administration tomorrow, pushing communities nationwide one step closer to economic hardship from the loss of thousands of military and civilian jobs.
The latest proposals, drafted by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission during five days of deliberations that ended Sunday, reconfirm the bad economic news some areas received when the Defense Department in March drafted the original plan to close roughly 30 military facilities across the country and reorganize at least 100 others.
But the seven-member commission's amended plan does give at least a temporary reprieve to a few other areas, according to preliminary reports of the commission's final decisions.
The overall effect of the latest proposals on the credit ratings and economies of affected localities is expected to be about the same as projected by credit analysts last March.
At that time, credit analysts said smaller towns with large bases being closed could face rating downgrades because closures there represent a significant threat to local economies.
They also said regions hardest hit, namely the San Francisco Bay Area and northern Virginia, would feel noticeable pain from the loss of large numbers of jobs, but the effects would be relatively short-lived.
The panel's recommendations, which must be submitted to the White House by tomorrow, will serve as one more nail in the coffin for some communities, according to published reports.
For example, the commission reportedly agreed with the Pentagon that the naval station in Charleston, S.C., should be closed, which would eliminate 8,634 military jobs and 1,194 civilian jobs. The commission also agreed that the naval shipyard there should be closed, which would cost another 4,900 jobs, mostly civilian, according to reports.
The Pentagon estimates that these job losses would represent about 15% of the total employment base in the Charleston area.
Further south, the commission also agreed with the Pentagon that Orlando, Fla., should lose a naval training center and a navy hospital that would cost the area a total of 10,591 jobs, according to preliminary reports.
In what is good news for some areas, the commission reportedly recommended to keep open at least eight facilities that the Pentagon's original plan slated for closure.
Notably, the commission reportedly recommended that Fort McClellan in Alabama be kept open, potentially saving the town of Anniston over 6,000 military and 2,000 civilian jobs. The Pentagon estimates that this represents 20% of the area's total employment base.
In addition, the commission reportedly recommended that the McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey not be closed, saving the Burlington County area over 3,600 jobs, which the Pentagon reckons is about 3.5% of the employment base.
And the commission also reportedly voted to keep the Homestead Air Force Base in Florida open, potentially saving the Miami-Hialeah area over 4,700 jobs, mostly military.
Regionally, the Pentagon's original plan would dig into the San Francisco and northern Virginia areas most deeply, and the commission's latest decisions did not do much to change that.
The commission recommended that four facilities in northern Virginia be closed and several others downsized, which would cost the area over 10,000 military and civilian jobs. And the commission voted to close four facilities in the San Francisco area, eliminating over 20,000 jobs from the local economy, according to preliminary reports.
President Clinton has until July 15 to accept or reject the commission's recommendations as they stand. If Clinton approves the plan, then it will go to Congress for a straight up or down vote, which must be taken within 45 legislative days, or the plan will automatically go into effect.
If the President rejects the plan, then the commission has until August 15 to formulate a new list of bases to close and downsize. As it stands, the plan would be implemented over six years.
The commission was created in 1990 by Congress to spare the President and Congress from the political pressures of being directly responsible for closing military bases.