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DON’T WAFFLE ON BASE CLOSURES

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Even when their objectives are short-sighted and selfish, some people never give up. Like the persistent people in Congress who are still trying to get the legislative branch of government to break its promise to close 86 obsolete military bases around the country to save money.

Another round in this long battle was won Thursday when the House Rules Committee rejected an amendment that would have exempted 11 of the 86 bases from the agreed-upon procedure for closing them.But the fight is far from over. Still another attempt to hang on to old, outmoded military installations can be expected next week when the full House of Representatives considers the military construction bill. Such moves likely will have to be resisted all the way through both the House and Senate.

The effort to treat the 11 bases in California, New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts and Arizona more favorably than the other 75 bases - including Utah's Fort Douglas - is unconscionable. Under the all-or-nothing approach agreed to by Congress, no tinkering with individual bases on the list of those to be closed is supposed to be allowed. If Congress exempts or even delays the closure of just one of those bases, the lawmakers would invite challenges to the closure of all bases on the list.

Instead of trying to single out a few obsolete bases for special treatment, Congress should be looking for more bases to close. The Pentagon expects to save $5.6 billion over 20 years by closing the 86 bases. Some studies indicate even more bases have outlived their usefulness and that closing them could save another $5 billion a year.

Meanwhile, one lesson should be clear from the continuing fight over closing old military bases: In Washington, few decisions can ever be considered final.