In the next two weeks, military communities across the country will learn whether the Pentagon wants to close their hometown bases, modify missions or leave them just the way they are.
Here are five things communities should know going into this week and next, based on background briefings given Friday at the National Press Club by congressional and defense staff members and military communities that lost bases in the four previous rounds.
- When? The date for the list’s release was May 16, but federal publication rules would require the list to be actually published May 13, a Friday. The Pentagon does not want to release the list on Friday the 13th, a defense official acknowledged Friday. Reporters were advised to be ready on May 12, with a warning that the final decision on the date hasn’t been made. The commission that will make the final decisions will make its first appearances before Congress next week and will hold its first meeting, but the Pentagon list won’t be out until the following week.
- Will local leaders get advance warning? Local base commanders might get a short advance warning _ perhaps as little as an hour _ or none at all. In previous rounds, the Pentagon made a “Hill drop” to representatives and senators a day before the formal announcements.
- If a base is listed, how long before it will actually close? If the base is listed for closure in the final Sept. 8 recommendation, it then has up to two years to start shutting down; complete closure must take place within six years.
- If a base is on the list, is there any way to get off the list? It’s expected to be more difficult to get off the list this round because of procedural changes. Officials said Friday that, historically, about 91 percent of bases recommended for closure have closed.
- If a base isn’t on the list, is it safe? Most likely. Changes to procedure for this round make it very difficult for a base to be added by commissioners after the Pentagon releases its recommendations. In order for a base to be “added,” seven of the nine appointed commissioners would have to vote to add it.
On the day of the announcement, reporters will get a list of the bases recommended for closure at the end of a press briefing. At that time, the list will be posted online at www.defenselink.mil.
(Scripps Howard News Service correspondent Tara Copp can be reached at coppt(at)shns.com)