Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is asking for another round of base closures as part of the fiscal 2015 budget request — just don’t expect members of Congress to go along quietly.
The top Pentagon official asked for a new round of base realignment and closure in 2017, but acknowledged that he faces an uphill fight on the Hill. “I am mindful that Congress has not agreed to our BRAC requests in the last two years,” Hagel said.
And it’s a familiar fight for the department, which asked for a round of BRAC when it presented its budget last year, as well as the year before that. But the idea was quickly shot down by members of Congress in both chambers and parties.
“The one thing on the Hill where I always found unanimity is on opposition to BRAC,” Eric Fanning, the undersecretary for the Air Force, said Tuesday morning at a Washington defense conference.
Fanning said Pentagon officials have been on the Hill discussing the trade-offs the department faces with the budget crunch.
Rising costs from a 2005 recommendations for BRAC left some members of Congress hesitant to try again. The BRAC commission originally estimated that it would cost the Pentagon $21 billion to follow its recommendations, but, according to a 2012 GAO report, the cost ended up around $35.1 billion.
But Hagel said that if Congress “continues to block these requests even as they slash the overall budget,” department officials will look for other ways to reduce infrastructure.
And one of those options is closing bases in Europe, which aren’t subject to the BRAC commission’s approval. Hagel said the Pentagon will pursue another round of base closings and realignment based on recommendations from the European Infrastructure Consolidation Review this spring.
And Hagel noted that “in Europe, where BRAC authority is not needed, we have reduced our infrastructure by 30 percent since 2000.”
There could be another — admittedly obscure — work-around.
House Armed Services staffer Vickie Plunkett said at a conference earlier this month that Section 2687 of Title 10, which regulates the Defense Department, would allow the Pentagon to close bases and “only requires notification to Congress” before the closure takes place.
“The authorities only require notification. Take your chances, because it’s going to require us to get our act together to stop it,” she said.
What We're Following See More »
According to the most recent Gallup poll, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are equally disliked. The poll, conducted between July 18 and July 25, shows both major party candidates for president are viewed favorably by 37 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 58 percent of respondents. This poll is bad news for Clinton, who has received better favorable and unfavorable ratings in nearly every poll over the last year.
The same day that Donald Trump encouraged Russia to hack the State Department and "find the 30,000 emails that are missing," the GOP nominee for vice president took a more serious approach. "If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences," Pence said in a statement. Trump's comments at a press conference this morning were rebuked by individuals across the political spectrum, while some on Trump's team, including prominent surrogate Newt Gingrich, have called his comments a "joke."
The Federal Open Market Committee today voted to leave interest rates alone, but "upgraded its assessment of the economy’s recent performance and said near-term risks to the outlook have diminished, effectively leaving the door open to raise rates later this year, possibly as early as September."
"Spurred by VP pick Mike Pence, a former congressman with close ties to many lawmakers, the Trump campaign in recent weeks has stepped up its courtship of wary Capitol Hill Republicans. And the efforts appear to be bearing fruit." Central to the charm offensive: invitations to more than a dozen "Senate and House members into his family’s private box for some power-schmoozing with him and his kids" during the Republican National Convention.
Donald Trump essentially encouraged more Russian espionage against Democrats in a press conference this morning. "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” That prompted Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan to say: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”