Security Insiders: High Time for Congress to Cave on Closing Military Bases

“But they won’t,” one Insider said.

Tech. Sgt. Andrew Gravett walks along the top of a C-17 Globemaster III while wearing a safety harness as he does a routine maintenance check of the aircraft June 4, 2013, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. The first C-17 to enter the Air Force's inventory arrived at Charleston Air Force Base in June 1993. The C-17 is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in the deployment area. Gravett is a crew chief assigned to the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
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Sara Sorcher
Feb. 17, 2014, 6:55 a.m.

It’s high time for Con­gress to agree to the Pentagon’s re­quest to close mil­it­ary bases, a whop­ping 91 per­cent of Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity In­siders said.

Law­makers, even as they search for ways to cut spend­ing, have re­buffed the De­fense De­part­ment’s re­quests to close mil­it­ary in­stall­a­tions it no longer needs as the mil­it­ary downs­izes after long wars in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan — to the dis­may of the pool of na­tion­al se­cur­ity ex­perts. “Enough already,” one In­sider said.

“Con­gress rails about waste, un­til the Pentagon comes up with le­git­im­ate sav­ings that re­quire con­gres­sion­al states­man­ship,” an­oth­er In­sider said. “At which point, Con­gress goes si­lent.”

The Pentagon wants to use the money on oth­er cru­cial pri­or­it­ies as the de­fense budget shrinks, while law­makers have ob­jec­ted to the up­front costs of clos­ing bases. One In­sider ac­know­ledged base clos­ings “of­ten take time to show sav­ings.” Still, the In­sider said, es­pe­cially in this era of fisc­al aus­ter­ity, “every little bit helps in the out years.”

In­siders say law­makers’ real con­cern is the polit­ic­al price they will pay for po­ten­tial job losses in their dis­tricts. Even so, one In­sider said, “bases should be loc­ated where there ex­ists mil­it­ary ne­ces­sity, not where there is polit­ic­al con­veni­ence.” U.S. mil­it­ary bases, an­oth­er In­sider ad­ded, “are not in­ten­ded to serve as eco­nom­ic pork to con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts. There are bet­ter ways to stim­u­late the eco­nomy than play­ing polit­ics with our mil­it­ary basing.”

By re­fus­ing the Pentagon’s calls to close fa­cil­it­ies, one In­sider said, Con­gress is break­ing faith with the troops. “It is un­fair to take away re­tire­ment pay, and health care be­ne­fits that ser­vice mem­bers have earned over a ca­reer, while con­tinu­ing to op­er­ate bases no longer needed and main­tain weapon sys­tems no longer needed be­cause Con­gress re­fuses to act re­spons­ibly,” one In­sider said. “That is pun­ish­ing the people who have sac­ri­ficed the most for the safety of our na­tion to pro­tect reelec­tion op­por­tun­it­ies for mem­bers.”

Sev­er­al In­siders were up­front about the prob­ab­il­ity of Con­gress ac­tu­ally cav­ing. “They won’t,” one In­sider quipped.

A tiny 9 per­cent minor­ity said Con­gress should not listen to the Pentagon’s re­quests to close ex­cess fa­cil­it­ies — if only be­cause it’s their right. “As much as the Pentagon may like to ig­nore it when it dis­agrees, the Con­gress rep­res­ents the people and has the power of the purse,” one In­sider said. “It’s up to them to de­cide how as­sets should ul­ti­mately be al­loc­ated. It may seem il­lo­gic­al to the Pentagon. But no one elec­ted them.”

1. Should Con­gress agree to the Pentagon’s re­quests to close bases?

(59 votes)

  • Yes 91%
  • No 9%

Yes

“More bloat in basing than ever be­fore.”

“But they won’t”

“Ex­cess ca­pa­city ex­ists across all the mil­it­ary ser­vices. Con­gress and com­munit­ies face either a slow de­cline at every base, with little hope for any eco­nom­ic re­lief any­where, or se­lect­ive clos­ures that bol­ster needed bases and let oth­er areas start on the road to re­cov­ery and life after clos­ure.”

“Con­gress wishes to re­tain sur­plus fa­cil­it­ies as a form of ‘pork’ for their con­stitu­ents.”

“In 1966 Aaron Wil­davsky wrote that the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee was ‘a sort of real es­tate com­mit­tee deal­ing with the re­gion­al eco­nom­ic con­sequences of the loc­a­tion of mil­it­ary fa­cil­it­ies.’ Little has changed, so I wouldn’t bet on Con­gress do­ing the right thing here.”

“Of course they should. Na­tion­al in­terest is not just the col­lec­tion of pa­ro­chi­al loc­al in­terests.”

“We badly need to shrink the Pentagon back of­fice and in­fra­struc­ture to free up re­sources for forces and hard­ware.”

“The mil­it­ary budget has been slashed to pay for Amer­ica’s ad­dic­tion to en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams. It is time for loc­al com­munit­ies to pay the true price for this de­cision.”

“Con­gress should un­der­take many needed and over­due ef­forts to pare Pentagon ex­cess, but it wont.”

“With the sig­ni­fic­ant re­duc­tions in force struc­ture, there will be ex­cess ca­pa­city. We will not be able to spend bil­lions main­tain­ing un­used fa­cil­it­ies, and the ser­vice chiefs will in­creas­ingly high­light this dis­con­nect.”

“The new budget will cut force struc­ture to main­tain read­i­ness and to avoid a hol­low force; we no longer have the lux­ury of ex­cess base in­fra­struc­ture for pure polit­ic­al pork; the next BRAC is in­ev­it­able.”

“There is ex­cess ca­pa­city as the armed forces are downs­ized fol­low­ing the Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan wars. However, we must main­tain enough ca­pa­city and cap­ab­il­ity to ex­pand the force if needed. And we must main­tain ad­equate train­ing lands.”

“In his re­cent mem­oir, Robert Gates called Con­gress’s in­ab­il­ity to pass le­gis­la­tion in the na­tion­al in­terest an ‘out­rageous derel­ic­tion of duty.’ Con­gress should stop treat­ing de­fense like a jobs pro­gram. Clos­ing un­ne­ces­sary bases is an ex­cel­lent way to save money without com­prom­ising U.S. mil­it­ary power.”

No

“As much as the Pentagon may like to ig­nore it when it dis­agrees, the Con­gress rep­res­ents the people and has the power of the purse. It’s up to them to de­cide how as­sets should ul­ti­mately be al­loc­ated. It may seem il­lo­gic­al to the Pentagon. But no one elec­ted them.”

Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity In­siders Poll is a peri­od­ic sur­vey of more than 100 de­fense and for­eign policy ex­perts. They in­clude: Gor­don Adams, Charles Al­len, Mi­chael Al­len, Thad Al­len, Gra­ham Al­lis­on, James Bam­ford, Dav­id Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Ber­gen, Samuel “Sandy” Ber­ger, Dav­id Ber­teau, Steph­en Biddle, Nancy Bird­sall, Mari­on Blakey, Kit Bond, Stu­art Bowen, Paula Broad­well, Mike Breen, Mark Brun­ner, Steven Bucci, Nich­olas Burns, Dan By­man, James Jay Cara­fano, Phil­lip Carter, Wendy Cham­ber­lin, Mi­chael Cher­toff, Frank Cil­luffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clem­ons, Joseph Collins, Wil­li­am Court­ney, Lorne Cran­er, Ro­ger Cres­sey, Gregory Dahl­berg, Robert Dan­in, Richard Dan­zig, Daniel Drezn­er, Mack­en­zie Eaglen, Paul Eaton, An­drew Ex­um, Wil­li­am Fal­lon, Eric Farns­worth, Jacques Gansler, Steph­en Gan­yard, Daniel Goure, Mark Green, Mike Green, Mark Gun­zinger, Todd Har­ris­on, John Hamre, Jim Harp­er, Marty Haus­er, Mi­chael Hay­den, Mi­chael Her­son, Pete Hoek­stra, Bruce Hoff­man, Linda Hud­son, Paul Hughes, Colin Kahl, Don­ald Ker­rick, Rachel Klein­feld, Lawrence Korb, Dav­id Kramer, An­drew Kre­pinev­ich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, Mi­chael Leit­er, James Lind­say, Justin Lo­gan, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Ron­ald Marks, Bri­an Mc­Caf­frey, Steven Metz, Frank­lin Miller, Mi­chael Mo­rell, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kev­in Neal­er, Mi­chael Oates, Thomas Pick­er­ing, Paul Pil­lar, Larry Pri­or, Steph­en Rade­maker, Marc Rai­mondi, Celina Realuyo, Bruce Riedel, Barry Rhoads, Marc Ro­ten­berg, Frank Rug­giero, Gary Sam­ore, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, John Scofield, Tammy Schultz, Steph­en Ses­t­an­ovich, Sarah Se­wall, Mat­thew Sher­man, Jen­nifer Sims, Su­z­anne Spauld­ing, Con­stan­ze Stelzen­müller, Ted Stroup, Guy Swan, Frances Town­send, Mick Train­or, Richard Wil­helm, Tamara Wittes, Dov Za­kheim, and Juan Za­r­ate.

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