The Pentagon has complied and sent to the White House a "hit list" of military bases that could be closed to save money, government officials said yesterday.
Although the list is being kept secret in hopes of forestalling the political storm that affected members of Congress would kick up, one official said 50 was a good estimate on the number of facilities being reviewed by the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget.
As important as saving money by shutting down or shrinking some military bases, defense officials said, would be the symbolic demonstration to Congress and the public that President Reagan is demanding economies in military as well as civilian programs.
Budget chief David A. Stockman is said by administration officials to consider such symbolism vital to Reagan's effort to convince Congress to accept proposed cuts in federal income taxes.
Stockman is said to perceive Pentagon "savings," through base closings and other economics, as a way to embolden lawmakersd wavering on the tax issue.
Another anticipated dividend of Pentagon economies is reassurance of investors that the administration is imposing economies and moving to reduce future federal deficits across the board.
Then-defense secretary Harold Brown said shortley before leaving office that millions of dollars could be saved if politicians would agree to closing bases that the military no longer needs.
Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger has been studing what he calls "realignments" in the base structure but is not expected to tackle the issue publicy unitl this summer when the Pentagon's record peacetime budget is expected to have passed most major congressional obstacles.
Several of the Pentagon's friends in Congress are warning the administration that the consensus favoring defense will break up if rising costs of weaponry are not brought under control and budget estimates are not hardened.
Such congressional veterans as chairman John G. Tower (R-Tex.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.) of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Sens. John C. Stennis (D-Miss.), Sam Nunn (d-Ga.) and Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) of the Armed Services Committee have been sounding such warnings recently.
Two comparatively junior members, Sen. Carl Levin (d-Mich.) and Rep. Dave McCurdy (d-Okla.), of the Senate and House Armed Services committees respectively, have pledged to concentrate on reforming Pentagon procurement to get more bang for the buck.
Levin succeeded in adding language to the Pentagon's fiscal 1982 authorization bill requiring more extensive advertising of weapons projects before contracts can be negotiated on a sole-source basis. The Pentagon, under the Levin amendment, also would have to inform Congress on a regular basis about how many sole-source contracts it was awarding.
McCurdy said yesterday that Reagan told him face-to-face last week that his tax cut proposal would go before Congress for a vote this year even if inflation and mortgage rates failed to drop below present levels.
McCurdy contended yesterday that the possible loss of government income through tax cuts makes it more important than ever to force economies on the Pentagon.
"There are no uniform acounting and management principles in weapons procurement," McCurdy, a conservative freshman Democrat, complained to Chairman Melvin Price (D-Ill.) in recommending that the Armed Services Committee establish a panel to investigate weapons buying.