US to close 129 military bases: Clinton vows dollars 5bn aid to local communities

PRESIDENT Bill Clinton yesterday swiftly approved the closure of almost 130 domestic US military bases recommended by an independent commission, and immediately promised dollars 5bn ( pounds 3.3bn) to assist local communities whose economies are likely to be devastated by the blow.

Mr Clinton told reporters the aid represented 'an unprecedented federal effort' to cushion the effects of the cuts, the latest phase of the Pentagon's painful adjustment to a post-Cold War world. In all, 129 bases will be shut and a further 46 'realigned'.

Few regions have been spared. Some of the victims, such as the Charleston naval shipyard in South Carolina, are synonymous with US military history. California takes the heaviest punishment. Already battered by recession, the Golden State must now cope with no fewer than 30 base closures, including the Vallejo shipyard in San Francisco Bay.

The Pentagon has also just announced plans to shut or scale down 92 overseas bases. Almost all are in Germany, including Bitburg Air Base, scene of President Ronald Reagan's controversial visit in 1985. The moves fit in with the Clinton administration's goal of reducing US forces in Europe to 100,000, compared to President George Bush's target of 150,000 and a Cold War peak of around 350,000. The total of foreign bases has been halved since 1990.

The commission's list was only sent to the White House earlier this week, after it heard final appeals. Moving with uncharacteristic speed, Mr Clinton wants to minimise the inevitable political repercussions. Both he and Congress, which must pass its own judgement this autumn, have the choice of accepting the list as it stands or rejecting it.

His prompt action hugely increases the chances Congress will take the medicine too. 'Some members will be permitted to vent their frustration and pound their chests in outrage,' said the commission chairman, James Courter. 'But I'm 100 per cent convinced that when the leaves fall off the trees this fall, Congress will overwhelmingly accept this package.'

The closures announced yesterday are the climax of a process which began before even President Bush took office. But they have steadily grown in scope as the Soviet threat receded and pressures intensified for a shift from military to civilian spending. The dollars 5bn in aid pledged by Mr Clinton, coupled with the costs of closure, will add to the defence budget in the short term. But by the year 2000, the retrenchments should save about dollars 2.3bn annually.

Federal agencies have 90 days to calculate their first conversion proposals. These are likely to include sales of military land, and help with the speedy 'clean-up' of former bases. In each community, a single co-ordinator will be in charge of conversion plans. It was, Mr Clinton said, 'the least we can do . . . to help these patriotic citizens, cities and towns prosper'.

US unemployment, page 19

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
tech
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor