Pentagon misses deadline for releasing base-closing data

By Megan Scully, CongressDaily

The Pentagon released much of its base-closure data this weekend, but officials still have not finished scouring classified material from all information used to make recommendations to shutter 33 major domestic bases and realign others.

Lawmakers representing states affected by the closures have criticized the Pentagon for what they consider a failure to provide adequate and timely information to analyze Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's recommendations.

The Pentagon last week opened a classified reading room at the Defense Base Closure and Realignment

Commission's offices in Crystal City, Va., and officials said they would complete the declassification of all data by Saturday, making it available for public review.

Department officials failed to meet that goal because it involves reviewing "hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pages" for any classified information, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Monday. Meeting the deadline became "impossible" because of the "stunning amount of information," the spokeswoman added.

BRAC Commission staffers are reviewing the information they received this weekend, a BRAC spokesman said.

The commission has until Sept. 8 to evaluate the base-closure recommendations, released May 13. Lawmakers have said they need access to all data to plead their case and sway commissioners to save their bases. Commissioners already have visited many bases earmarked for closure, including Connecticut's New London Submarine Base, the largest installation on the list.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins of Maine and ranking member Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said in a statement that they are "beyond frustrated" with the delays and will subpoena the information if the department "does not make significant and rapid progress." Maine and Connecticut are the two states hardest hit by BRAC.