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Critical base report pulled from Internet

Mike Allen Washington Post

WASHINGTON – A government commission studying overseas military bases sent Congress a report that included criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s strategy, then removed the document from the commission Web site after the Pentagon complained that it divulged classified information.

The congressionally appointed panel contends the 262-page report is based only on public sources, and several commission officials say they believe the Defense Department was annoyed because their conclusions include harsh criticism of some elements of Rumsfeld’s plan for streamlining the military.

An official involved in the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon’s primary complaint appeared to be that the report specified Bulgaria and Romania as countries U.S. forces would rotate through for training, rather than using a more vague regional identification such as Eastern Europe.

The Overseas Basing Commission released a partial version of the report at a news conference May 9, but now the panel has removed that version from its Web site because of the Pentagon’s complaints.

The controversy was first reported Sunday by Newsweek.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Defense Department’s objections are not about the panel’s views but about release of classified information.

The commission chairman, Al Cornella, a Republican, said in an interview that he was trying to cooperate but that he had not agreed to have the Pentagon clear the report in advance. “The commission is confident that everything in our report was obtained from unclassified sources or settings,” he said.

The commission, asked to provide recommendations on Rumsfeld’s plan to return 70,000 troops from overseas and to reposition many of the remaining forces, urged that “the pace of events be slowed and re-ordered.”

The commission found “no evidence of an overwhelming strategic or operational imperative” to handle the redeployment with the speed the Pentagon had planned.

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