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WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on Wednesday warned that defense officials haven’t learned from ill-advised facility closures on Guam in the 1990s, noting that the current round of base closures could prove costly in the future.

A new Congressional study released this week estimates that over the next two decades the 2005 decision on closures will save about $21 billion less than officials originally anticipated.

Several members of the House Armed Services Committee questioned whether the moves will result in long-term savings at all, pointing to Guam and the money that will need to be invested with the new buildup of U.S. forces there.

“The 2005 [Base Realignment and Closure] process was flawed; it did not obtain realistic data upon which to base sound business decisions,” Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, said. “And it came at a time where base closure was a profoundly bad idea, when we were fighting a war on two fronts.”

The report, released by the Government Accountability Office, said that relocating equipment, updating infrastructure and shutting down facilities will cost about $31 billion over the next years, up from the $21 billion originally estimated. Long-term savings will be about $200 million less annually than the $4.2 billion predicted.

As a result, the closure process will take about four years longer — until 2017 — to break even financially, according to Brian Lapore, director of defense assessment for the GAO.

In testimony before the committee Wednesday, Philip Grone, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations, noted that despite the missed estimates the process will result in a savings for the department, meeting the process’ fundamental goal.

But lawmakers questioned whether that will still be true if defense officials decide 10 years from now the closings were a mistake.

In 1993, the base closure committee opted to close Naval Air Station Agana on Guam and two years later voted to close a ship repair facility there. Del. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, said those moves now look short-sighted in light of recent decisions to move 8,000 Marines in their families from Okinawa to the territory.

“So now we’re going to spend millions to rebuild housing on Guam,” she said. “Were there any savings in the end?”

Grone said that since that decision, major world events and policy decisions have shifted the importance of the island, but he noted that significant infrastructure upgrade for the Marines would likely still be needed if the facility closings never occurred.


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