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Friday, August 12, 2005

Pentagon's math doesn't add up

Connecticut raised the pressure on BRAC as they challenge the Pentagon's base closing estimates and now it seems that the members on the commission are concerned with the numbers also.

From the Hartford Courant

The estimate for the Naval Submarine Base in Groton - $23 million to clean up a 90-year-old base that houses nuclear submarines - became a symbol of the commissioners' skepticism and concern that the Pentagon's numbers are far too low. The Pentagon has estimated the cost of cleaning up all bases at $1 billion.

"It doesn't seem realistic to me," commission Chairman Anthony Principi said during a hearing Thursday, referring to the Groton estimate.

BRAC commissioners met in the Hart Senate Office Building to ask 11th-hour questions about two of the most contentious topics of the current round of base-closing recommendations: environmental cleanup costs and the homeland security ramifications of moving Air National Guard units.

Both issues are critical for Connecticut, which stands to lose both the Groton base and its A-10 fighter planes from the 103rd Fighter Wing at Bradley airport. Later this month, the commission will begin deliberations to finalize a list of bases to forward to President Bush. One of the chief rationales given for the Pentagon list are long-term cost savings that will accrue from closing dozens of bases and downsizing others.

Commissioner Harold W. Gehman Jr., a former admiral, said that although the Pentagon did not factor in total cleanup costs for the heavy metals, solvents, petroleum products, pesticides and unexploded ordnance found on these bases - believing those costs would be figured elsewhere in the federal budget - the commission has to. Ultimately, he said, the commission must recommend closures that would generate funds for a transformation of the military. To that end, he asked, "How can we reconcile your [Pentagon's]recommendations?"

Commissioner Phillip Coyle wanted to know if there was an equation for estimating how far off the estimates are. "We're looking for some way to get a ballpark figure," he said. "Otherwise, I don't see how we can have any confidence in [Department of Defense] estimates."