Mr. Cohen's Wisdom

Despite growls from Congress, Defense Secretary William Cohen came right out this week and said it: More bases have to close.

The secretary is correct. If the US military is to move in the direction it needs to in the new century, it can't be tethered to a lot of unneeded infrastructure. The military is moving toward an electronic revolution as momentous as the move toward mechanized warfare in the early years of this century. The money tied up in maintaining excess installations should be freed up.

The prime argument for not doing so, from the legislators' point of view, boils down to economic benefits for the folks back home. Military bases supply jobs and customers. But Mr. Cohen, playing on that same motivation, points out that many more jobs will be lost if the Pentagon doesn't have the money to purchase new generations of equipment from manufacturers.

The choice of which bases to close is now in the hands of a nonpolitical commission of experts. True, some of the commission's earlier recommendations were altered for political reasons by the president prior to the last election. That was deplorable. But it's no excuse for congressional thwarting of the system this time around. Give the secretary's pursuit of efficiency some room for success.

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