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Senator Vows to Block Pentagon Base Closure Attempts

Mar. 21, 2012 - 12:59PM   |  
By RICK MAZE   |   Comments
The IG review of the Pentagon's handling of classified information is required under the Reducing Over-Classification Act.
The IG review of the Pentagon's handling of classified information is required under the Reducing Over-Classification Act. (Defense Department)
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A Pentagon base closing initiative died March 21 when a key U.S. senator announced she will block any effort to create a new base closing commission.

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Committee panel with jurisdiction over military installations, said she is willing to allow the closing of U.S. military bases overseas, but not domestic bases.

There is strong opposition to new base closures on the House Armed Services Committee, which also appears unlikely to approve the legislation necessary to create a base closing list.

Unless the Pentagon can change McCaskill’s mind, her announcement seals the fate of the proposal. It takes only a single senator to hold up legislation.

The death of the initiative comes before the Defense Department has even submitted to Congress a legislative plan for making the base closing plan possible.

McCaskill, who heads the subcommittee on military readiness and management support, said she applauds the Defense Department’s “desire to find responsible places to achieve savings” but “there is one area where there is absolutely no room for compromise this year: BRAC.”

BRAC refers to the independent base closing and realignment commission process the Defense Department has depended on in five previous rounds to get Congress to support shutting down bases. The commission makes recommendations that have to be accepted or rejected as a package, with no ability to make modifications.

Defense Department officials have proposed two additional base-closing rounds, one in 2013 and a second in 2015, for closing bases and adjusting forces — moves they have said are vital to cutting infrastructure costs to deal with tighter defense budgets.

McCaskill’s objections are similar to those raised by the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, which also wants to see a complete force structure plan for overseas and domestic bases before going forward, as well as estimates on how much money could be saved by closing more bases. There are upfront costs to base closing, which gives lawmakers a reason to delay the cuts without looking like they are just trying to protect bases back home.

However, McCaskill made clear she is concerned about bases in Missouri.

“The impact BRAC has on our communities around the country, such as those surrounding my home state bases Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base, is extraordinary,” said McCaskill, who is up for re-election in November. “I will not support a process that is callous or casual, or one that is rushed before we fully comprehend whether the traumatic task is clearly in the best interests of the American taxpayer and our national security. The department has a very long way to go before it proves to me that these initial criteria have been met.”

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