COMISO AIR STATION, ITALY -- Construction crews are still building new villa-style family town houses at this remote cruise missile base, even as the U.S. Air Force is dismantling its operations here and no longer allows service members to bring their families to the base deep in the dusty interior of Sicily. For the past several months, long caravans of trucks carrying launchers and other pieces of the Air Force's ground-launched cruise missile system have been snaking through the olive groves to the naval air station across the Iblei Mountains. Once there, the missile components are loaded on planes and flown to the United States to be destroyed. Comiso, one of the Air Force's newest bases -- complete with new pedestrian mall, new bowling alley and sunny new child-care center -- will soon be a base without a mission. An air station with no airstrip, it was designed to support a weapon that has been rendered obsolete by the U.S.-Soviet treaty eliminating intermediate- and shorter-range nuclear forces in Europe. Comiso, and 10 other U.S.-operated nuclear missile facilities throughout Europe, have become the targets of a bitter international battle over the spoils of the missile withdrawals: hundreds of millions of dollars of American-financed buildings, roads and other structures scattered across the European countryside. The Comiso missile wing commander, Col. Lester R. Willey, was asked what will become of the 379-acre base into which the United States has poured more than $100 million to build spacious, modern facilities since 1982. He shakes his head: "I wish I knew. I don't know." "Nobody knows what they're going do with these things," said Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's panel on burdensharing. "We can't pack them up and bring them home. They are a very expensive gift to the host country. Most have new facilities where the ribbons haven't even been cut." The debate over the future of the sites -- six ground-launched cruise missile bases and three Pershing II missile facilities and two Pershing support units -- has become even more heated as U.S. officials continue diplomatic duels with NATO allies reluctant to renew other baseing-rights agreements. At the same time, some members of Congress who are trying to curtail military spending argue that the United States and NATO will waste millions of dollars if they build new facilities while the almost-new nuclear missile facilities go unused. "I am very troubled by pouring concrete in places where we don't know we'll be five years from now," said Schroeder. "The ground-launched cruise missile bases are a great example." The U.S. military has already shut down its cruise missile operations at bases in Belgium and the Netherlands. The U.S.-funded buildings, some of them barely used, stand vacant while the debate rages over their future, according to officials for the U.S. Air Force-Europe. In a secret Pentagon report recently delivered to Congress outlining proposals for future uses of the missile bases, Jack Katzen, assistant secretary of defense for production and logistics, wrote, "The missile sites were tailored for very specific functions. Consequently they do not readily lend themselves to a wide range of other non-related missions." Nowhere, said military officials, is that more obvious than at Comiso Air Station, an isolated base where water wells run dry in summer and the only access is by rural farm roads and a small helicopter landing pad. Comiso (pronounced Co-ME-so) was the most expensive of the ground-launched cruise missile bases, according to congressional budget records. "They don't have any clue as to what to do with Comiso," said one congressional official familiar with the base debates. "It's isolated, access is lousy -- there's nothing you can do with it." The base's one-time airplane runway is now a stretch of broken and cracked concrete that Comiso officials say would be prohibitively expensive to rebuild. Shortly before the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed in December 1987, the Air Force agreed to allow service members' families to accompany them to Comiso as an inducement for duty at the secluded base sprawled across an agricultural valley. As a result, Congress appropriated $32 million to build 460 town houses for military families on base. Groundbreaking had barely begun when the treaty was signed mandating that all missiles be removed from the base by 1991. Although the Air Force quickly rescinded its decision and decided to prohibit military dependents from moving to the base, construction of the new housing continued. Cancelling existing contracts and the prospects of strikes by Italian labor forces at the base would have cost the Air Force more than continuing the project, according to base officials. Now, pairs of enlisted airmen will share the spacious orange-tiled town houses intended for families. The base employs 1,845 U.S. military and civilian personnel and 179 Italians, most of them security guards. Potential uses for the base reportedly range from converting it to a laser research center to turning it over to the U.S. Navy, which has other operations in Sicily. Comiso officials are even preparing a videotape of the base for use in describing its attributes to prospective tenants. The fate of the bases will be decided within a tangled web of diplomacy that governs the ownership and operation of the missile bases. Although the host nations provide the land for the bases and NATO technically controls and funds most of the construction and operations, the ground-launched cruise missile facilities are controlled primarily by the U.S. Air Force and the Pershing II facilities by the Army. As a result, the future use of the bases will be decided by three-sided negotiations involving the United States, NATO and the host nations. Because the U.S. military, particularly the Air Force, usually insists on more amenities for its service members assigned to foreign bases than NATO funding provides, Congress frequently provides additional money for recreational, housing and other support facilities. Congress appropriated $429 million for the six Air Force cruise missile bases betwen 1982 and 1987, according to congressional records. Congress froze an additional $92 million for the bases in 1988 after the INF Treaty was signed. Already, two of the seven missile flights, or missile units, based at Comiso have been dismantled, according to Willey. Each flight has 16 missiles. Army officials said that 27 of the 234 Pershing II missiles at the West German bases have been eliminated so far under the treaty. Some of the bases may have less difficult transitions to new uses than remote Comiso, according to U.S. and NATO officials. Army officials say they can easily convert the three Pershing missile facilities and two support bases in West Germany to operations centers for a number of other overcrowded facilities in that country, although proposals have not been solidified. Greenham Common in England is under consideration for new U.S. Air Force aircraft, according to officials. U.S. officials reportedly are considering turning over facilities at Woensdrecht in the Netherlands to that nation's military. Watching the bases shut down has been disconcerting for some of the military members stationed at the facilities and trained on the weapon systems. "We just got the base on line and -- Bam! -- the base goes away," said the Comiso public affairs officer, Capt. Mike Kormanik. "It's too pretty to close down," said Maj. Katherine Shindel, the chief chaplain who works out of a spacious new earth-toned chapel at the air station. Among the officers who have built careers around the seven-year-old ground-launched cruise missile system, reaction has been mixed. "It makes it a lot harder -- you have to keep up work and be ready for war but you look and see the system has no future," said Capt. Laura Reeve, a missile crew commander involved in training crew members. Missile wing commander Willey offers a different perspective. "The GLCM was deployed to make the Soviets come to the bargaining table. This system has done its job. People are proud to have been a part of that," he said.