BASE CLOSINGS Officials send letter to defense secretary

Officials are asking the secretary about the options considered.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Officials trying to save a military payroll office in Cleveland say they are hopeful a letter sent Friday to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will help their cause.
Anthony Principi, chairman of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, asked Rumsfeld in the letter if keeping Defense Finance and Accounting Service offices open in Columbus, Indianapolis and Denver and closing all other DFAS outposts was the only option considered.
The Department of Defense in May proposed shuttering the Cleveland DFAS office and shifting about 1,000 jobs to other cities. The Pentagon also recommended that 1,758 jobs be added to the Defense Supply Center in Columbus and suburban Whitehall, which includes a DFAS operation.
"Why did DoD not consider other options, which could have avoided military construction costs and possibly produced a more cost effective option?" Principi wrote in the seven-page letter.
The Base Realignment and Closure Commission is expected to send its decisions to President Bush by Sept. 8.
Retired Air Force Gen. Lloyd Newton, a member of the commission, toured the DFAS office in Cleveland in June with Gov. Bob Taft and hometown members of Congress.
Parts of Principi's letter could be a result of a presentation made to Newton during his visit, said Fred Nance, chairman of the Cleveland Defense Industry Alliance, a lobbying group.
"I know a lot better than to count chickens before they're hatched, but yes, I am encouraged," he said.
U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Stephanie Tubbs Jones, both Democrats, said the letter is a good sign.
"The fact the letter was sent, asking for an explanation, indicates we have hope," Kucinich said. "This is so important to Cleveland. We have so much at stake."
Base supporters
Supporters of the Cleveland DFAS office have argued the Pentagon's analysis did not consider some critical operations performed by the office and costs to expand other DFAS facilities.
The commission will conduct a public hearing on July 19 in Washington.
Nance said they are gathering more data supporting their case to present to the commission.
The Pentagon says it will save $49 billion over 20 years by streamlining services across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and shutting down bases deemed inefficient.

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