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Bush Defends US Military Base Closings

President Bush departs White House to attend United States Naval Academy graduation in Annapolis, Md, Friday
President Bush is defending plans to close some U.S. military bases, saying the savings will help refocus forces on fighting terrorism. The president spoke at graduation day for the U.S. Naval Academy.

President Bush says plans to close or reduce dozens of military bases across the United States will save nearly $50 billion over 20 years. He told future officers that those savings will help fund new technologies to make U.S. fighting forces faster, lighter, more agile, and more lethal.

"In this time of unprecedented dangers, we need you to take on two difficult missions at once. We need you to defeat the terrorists who want to destroy what we stand for and how we live, and at the same time we need you to transform our military for the 21st Century so we can deter and defeat the new adversaries who may threaten our people in the decades ahead," he said.

The president last spoke at the Naval Academy Commencement months before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, telling graduates then that they were inheriting a "safer and more peaceful world."

President Bush Friday said the midshipmen who graduated that day could not have known how soon their leadership would be tested. He spoke of several members of the class of 2001, from the leader of a rifle platoon in Iraq to a member of a Navy special operations team in Afghanistan.

"The lesson of September 11th is clear: New dangers can arrive on our shores without warning. In this era of surprise, we cannot know for certain who might attack us or where or when but we can anticipate how we might be attack and we can transform our capabilities to defend our citizens and deliver justice to our enemies," he said.

In Iraq, President Bush says difficult and dangerous work remains, but U.S. troops are committed to helping train Iraqi security forces so they can defend their own country.

He says Afghanistan and Iraq have now chosen their leaders in free elections, displaying a courage that Mr. Bush says is inspiring democratic reformers across the broader Middle East.

In the last 18 months, he says the world has seen changes in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Lebanon. That, the president says, is only the beginning.

"Across Central Asia and the broader Middle East, we are seeing the rise of a new generation whose hearts burn for liberty. And they are going to have it. America is standing with these democratic reformers because we know that the only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror and replace hatred with hope is the force of human freedom," he said.

The president and Mrs. Bush spend the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David then return to Washington for Monday's Memorial Day services at Arlington National Cemetery.