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Statement by the President Upon Signing the Military Construction Authorization Bill.

September 12, 1966

I HAVE today signed into law S. 3105, the military construction authorization bill for fiscal year 1967.

In approving this authorization for essential military construction for this fiscal year, I wish to make my position on two of its provisions clear. One of these provisions involves proposed base closing actions, the other relates to the future use of the Bolling Air Force Base and the Anacostia Naval Air Station.

When it reenacted last year's military construction bill, the Congress replaced an unconstitutional reporting requirement on base closings with one providing for a reasonable 30-day period of notification to the Armed Services Committees before a base closing could become effective. The bill I have just approved contains an undesirable provision extending the period to 30 days of "continuous session" of the Congress. The effect is a flat bar against otherwise desirable base closings for the duration of a congressional adjournment plus at least 2 months.

I have serious doubts that the new restriction meets the test of a reasonable waiting period set out in my veto message on the first military construction bill last year. However, in order to give full weight to the Congress' responsibilities in national defense matters of this kind, I am resolving this doubt in favor of approval. Nevertheless, my responsibilities as President and Commander in Chief will require me to seek prompt revision of the restriction if future circumstances prove it to be inimical to the national interest.

I note statements in the reports of the House Armed Services Committee and of the conference committee that suggest that the new 30-day notification is to be related to the announcement of a base closing. The actual language of the bill, however, links the report to Congress not to the announcement but to the base closing action itself. I am assuming that the intent of Congress is that expressed in the language of the bill.

The other matter of concern to me in the bill involves the future use of the Bolling-Anacostia area. Situated on the Potomac and centrally located, this area must be developed imaginatively and with the best interest of the Nation's Capital in mind. Because it has been used for military purposes in the past, we cannot blindly insist that it continue to be so used in the future.

Exhaustive study by the Department of Defense has consistently revealed that there is a military requirement for only a part of the area. For this reason, the Urban Renewal Administration several years ago approved for the balance of the area a $400,000 study by the National Capital Planning Commission to develop a plan for its best use. The Commission study, now nearing completion, tentatively recommends a new residential community with a range of housing types.

Last year's military construction bill contained a provision barring use of the Bolling-Anacostia area for other than military purposes until July 1, 1967. At the time I signed that bill, I wrote the then Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency that the Urban Renewal Administration study should continue in order that "we will have all of the choices spelled out for us all to see."

Although the present bill carries forward the restriction on the use of the area until December 31, 1970, I expect the Commission's study to go forward and be completed as soon as possible. We intend to seek the best use for this area--a use that will be in the interest of the people of Washington as well as in the national interest. If that cannot be accomplished in the face of the new restriction in the bill I have approved today, I shall not hesitate to request and work for a change in the law.

Land, buildings, and other property of the Federal Government are not and can never be the exclusive preserve of the department or agency that has jurisdiction over it. They belong to all of the people. They should be used for the benefit of all the people. I fully intend to follow that principle here.

Note: As enacted, S. 3105 is Public Law 89-568 (80 Stat. 739). For the President's veto of the first military construction bill for fiscal year 1966 and his statement upon signing the reenacted bill, see 1965 volume, this series, Book II, Items 440 and 518.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Military Construction Authorization Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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