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Several Defense Commissary Agency facilities that faced closure this year — including stores in Japan and South Korea — instead will remain open.

In a memo made public Tuesday, Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, wrote that the following commissaries once tapped for closure would stay open based on achieving cost-containment targets:

Japan: Hario Housing Village, Camp Kure, Sagami Depot and Sagamihara.South Korea: Chinhae and Pusan.Germany: Kelley Barracks, Idar Oberstein, Neubreucke and Panzer.United States: Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.; Dahlgren, Va.; Lakehurst, N.J., and Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.An August memorandum from the undersecretary of Defense’s office said those stores would be shuttered in 2004.

“It’s definitely good news,” said Cmdr. Rusty Hagins, chief staff officer at Fleet Activities Chinhae, South Korea. “But we were pretty confident that ... they had based their earlier decision on a database that was incorrect.”

Last year, after hearing Chinhae’s commissary was on the closure list, base officials offered a lengthy, detailed response about why it should be kept open. That the original study relied on incorrect information was their main point, Hagins said. “All along,” he said Tuesday, “we had faith that going through the system and through the chain of command would work.”

The reprieve memo also included summaries of why the commissaries would stay open. In Chinhae’s case, the memo stated, the nearest remaining commissary would be more than 90 minutes away by car; the store also had improved its sales figures and unit costs.

At Sasebo, where the Hario Village commissary was in danger, the reprieve also generated relief. “The commissary provides a vital quality-of-life service to the Sasebo military community,” said base spokesman Charles T. Howard.

Previously, U.S. Army Japan commander Maj. Gen. Elbert N. Perkins said he would fight the closures. Perkins could not be reached for comment Tuesday but stated in a December memo that, “It is absolutely essential that we retain all the commissaries serving the Army community in Japan to prevent a serious negative impact on our quality of life, cost of living, safety, morale and welfare.”

Sasebo base commander Capt. Michael James said the recommendation to close the Hario Village store also was based on faulty data.

“Things were not considered,” he said, such as loss of many customers for protracted periods due to “ships being under way a large part of the past two years.”

In November, James detailed for Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan how closing the Hario Commissary would harm servicemembers, civilians and their families.

Also, he argued, the Hario Commissary significantly lowered its operating costs in fiscal 2003.

Other Pacific commissaries on the closure list also logged improvements in containing such costs, according to the memorandum released Tuesday.


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