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Cheney's Force-Cutting Proposal Would Target 71 Military Bases

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Washington--Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney has announced that the Pentagon is recommending that 43 military bases be closed and that 28 others be "downsized" as part of the Defense Department's plan to trim the military by 25 percent over the next several years.

The proposed changes would occur in addition to the closure or downsizing of 86 bases that were similarly targeted in 1989. (See Education Week, Dec. 13, 1989.)

Base closures profoundly affect schools surrounding the bases because the loss of students means the loss of state and federal funding. Moreover, students whose parents are transferred to other bases could overburden their new schools, which may not be prepared for the influx of students.

"There is some concern," said John Forkenbrock, executive director of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools. "There definitely are some districts that will be affected."

Mr. Cheney made the announcement at a news conference on April 12, and three days later submitted the list of proposed closures to the Congress and to a special commission to study the base closings.

Chaired by former Representative James A. Courter, Republican of New Jersey, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission has until July 1 to report to President Bush on Mr. Cheney's list. The commission was established last year by the Congress after lawmakers rejected Secretary Cheney's first list of base closures, noting that the vast majority were located in Congressional districts held by Democrats.

President Bush can approve the commission's report or send it back for revision, but he must accept or reject the second submission. If he rejects the second report, no bases will be closed.

If he accepts the report, he would then send it to the Congress, which will have 45 days to approve or reject the proposals. The three-tiered review process that includes the commission, the President, and the Congress also was established after lawmakers scrapped last year's closure attempt.

The list is politically sensitive because some closures result in the loss of thousands of military and civilian jobs, and some lawmakers already have lined up against the plan.

A number of school districts adjacent to the bases cited for closure in the new round are preparing for the loss of hundreds and thousands of students if the list remains unchanged through the review process.

For example, Bernard F. Ryder, the superintendent of the Limestone, Me., public schools, said the closing of nearby Loring Air Force Base, as recommended by Mr. Cheney, would economically devastate the system and the region.

Only 210 of more than 1,400 students would remain in the three-school system if the base were to close, Mr. Ryder said, and the system's $6.46-million budget would be trimmed by nearly 85 percent.

Moreover, he said, the system's teachers "will be deserting me, and they're going to start now. They're not going to wait two years."

Among the largest bases on Mr. Cheney's closure list are:

Fort Ord, Seaside, Calif.

Naval Training Center-Recruit Training Center Orlando, Fla.

Naval Station Long Beach, Calif.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor, Wash.

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