Warner: Defense Closures 'Rigged'

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Virginia Sen. John W. Warner (R) said that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and a senior aide improperly manipulated the national base realignment plan announced earlier this year to compel the movement of more than 20,000 defense jobs away from the Washington area.

Two years before the Pentagon revealed its base closing plan May 13, in a stream of memos and internal records, top department officials were saying that "thinning of headquarters in the National Capital Region remains a[n] objective," according to Warner.

Raymond F. DuBois, Rumsfeld's principal aide for personnel and organizational planning, guided planners in an April 1, 2004, meeting: "The Secretary of Defense wants to reduce footprint and headcount in the [region] . . . -- Moving activities from the [region] is good but moving activities beyond the 100-mile radius of the Pentagon is better," according to minutes of his remarks cited by Warner.

Warner, chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Defense Department acted improperly by singling out one area of the country for cutbacks. He added that he did not know the reasoning behind the 100-mile limit.

He said Rumsfeld's team used the base realignment process to achieve other goals, specifically, unrelated real estate management goals. Congress intended the base-closing procedures to focus on one issue: efficiency -- or, in Pentagon jargon, "military value."

"In simple terms, the military value model was rigged," Warner said, citing a final report in which Pentagon planners adopted criteria that prejudged all leased space as less desirable than owned buildings and the concentration of activities near Washington "as a negative."

DuBois said the Pentagon followed proper procedure in determining the Washington area closures. DuBois, now acting undersecretary of the Army, said Warner's arguments are "well-crafted" but leave out key points. "Decisions were made with respect to leased space in Northern Virginia consistent with military value as well as cost savings -- the two most important criteria," he said.

Warner has submitted summaries of scores of pages of Defense documents to the U.S. Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which begins meeting today to vote on the Pentagon recommendations. A final version is to be delivered by Sept. 8 to President Bush, who can accept the entire package or send it back once for revisions before forwarding it to Congress, which must reject or accept the plan in full.

In all, the Pentagon plan would shut or trim 837 bases and save $49 billion over 20 years. The District, Arlington and Alexandria stand to lose about 30,000 jobs by 2011 under the plan -- some of the biggest cuts in the country -- including 23,000 workers in leased buildings in Northern Virginia. Maryland and Virginia would gain more than 20,000 jobs on military bases in outlying suburbs, including Fort Belvoir in southeast Fairfax County, Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, Md.

In an interview, Warner acknowledged that his argument could help a legal challenge from Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) or local groups if the commission approves the Northern Virginia closures.

Rumsfeld has not detailed publicly why the Pentagon wants to disperse defense jobs away from Washington. But internal department reports prepared for the process refer to security in moving workers out of leased office buildings and out of the region.

When the senator's committee asked the Pentagon to disclose its legal review of the closures, it invoked attorney-client privilege, the senator said.

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