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Pentagon details plans to trim overseas bases

Responding to new threats that have made America's military deployment obsolete, the Pentagon will reduce the number of U.S. installations abroad from about 850 to 550 and shift U.S. forces closer to global crisis points, defense officials told Congress on Thursday.

Unveiling a plan more than three years in the works, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States would consolidate its overseas bases and move as many as 70,000 U.S. personnel and their families back home from Cold War-era installations in Europe and Asia. At the same time, the Pentagon would set up barebones facilities in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. U.S. troops could be "surged" to those bases during difficult times.

Rumsfeld told senators that the overhaul will occur during the next six to eight years. The sharpest reduction of installations will occur in Europe, where 560 will be cut to roughly 360.

Throughout the hearing, both Democrats and Republicans chided the defense secretary for what they called the Pentagon's stubborn refusal to increase the size of a U.S. military that is straining to fight wars both in Iraq and Afghanistan and that also must be able to stave off threats from Iran and North Korea.