The Department of Defense yesterday announced plans to reduce operations or close facilities at 42 European and Asian locations and close two overseas bases in response to the reduced Soviet threat and domestic cost-cutting pressures.
The move represents an expansion of overseas base-closings announced early this year by Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney, who said yesterday it is justified by a coming decline in U.S. troop strength.
But some congressional officials said the announcement fell well short of budget-driven demands for more-sweeping cuts and a fundamentally new approach to overseas troop deployments.
According to a Pentagon statement, operations will be terminated beginning in fiscal year 1991 at 95 sites in Germany, 11 in Spain, nine in Korea and others in Greece, Italy, Britain, Australia and Japan. Operations are to be reduced at another 23 sites in seven countries.
The 151 "sites" are located at only a few dozen locations, and one base on the new Pentagon list -- at Torrejon, Spain -- has been targeted for elimination since the Spanish government refused to renew its lease two years ago. Another major base listed for reduction in operations, at Neu Ulm in Germany, is the site of Pershing II missile batteries that are phasing out under a 1987 U.S.-Soviet arms treaty.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), chairwoman of the House Armed Services military installations and facilities subcommittee, said the list was "disappointing" and that it includes "gas stations on the autobahn, isolated housing units, athletic fields and sites which have long ago been cited for closure."
"Facilities like these are closed every day at bases in the United States with no DOD press release, no news conference, no hoopla," Schroeder said.
She has pressed the Pentagon unsuccessfully for a restructuring of overseas deployments in which most troops would be housed in the United States and rotated periodically to bare-bones European and Asian sites.
Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said the new list was formulated in consultation with countries involved, and was not subject to congressional approval before implementation.
He said no estimate is available of the savings or number of military personnel involved.
Williams said the operations would be "phased down gradually" over an unspecified period.
The agency's statement said that besides closing the F-16 air base at Torrejon, it would close two air bases in Germany and end operations in three German military communities.
Several congressional aides said a U.S. naval base in Italy and a communications facility in Australia earmarked for closing had appeared on previous U.S. base-closing lists.
The military construction funding bill moving through Congress includes a substantial cut in the Bush administration's request for new overseas construction as well as recisions of funds that have been appropriated.