Senators outline opposition to base closures

Five senators, including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told Panetta and Dempsey they were concerned or outright opposed to another round of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), which was included in the president’s 2013 budget request.

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Only Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenate defeats ObamaCare repeal measure McCain kills GOP's 'skinny' ObamaCare repeal plan Senate heading for late night ahead of ObamaCare repeal showdown MORE (R-S.C.) said he supported another BRAC round.

Panetta acknowledged in his opening statement the political sensitivity of BRAC, which can hurt the area surrounding a base economically and cost it jobs.

“As somebody who went through the BRAC process in my own district, I recognize how controversial this process is for members and for constituencies,” said Panetta, a former congressman. “And yet it is the only effective way to achieve needed infrastructure savings.”

Panetta said that 25 percent of the local economy in his Monterey, Calif., district was hit because of a BRAC closure, a base that is now partly a college campus.

His comments didn’t give the senators much sympathy, however.

Levin said that bases should be closed in Europe before they are closed domestically. Sen. Jim InhofeJames InhofeMcCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty GOP signals infrastructure bill must wait Lobbying World MORE (R-Okla.) said he didn’t want to infrastructure because he thinks the military force has been reduced to an unacceptable level. 

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) talked up concerns about a local base and the potential uses for it in cybersecurity operations. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Cybersecurity: Senate sends Russia sanctions bill to Trump | Senators unveil email privacy bill | Russia tried to spy on Macron with Facebook Lawmakers push to toughen foreign lobbying rules Families make emotional plea for diabetes research funding MORE (D-N.H.) questioned Panetta about the potential harm to shipyards.

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteOPINION: Democracy will send ISIS to the same grave as communism Kelly Ayotte joins defense contractor's board of directors Week ahead: Comey firing dominates Washington MORE (R-N.H.) questioned whether BRAC actually led to savings, because of the large upfront costs associated with base closures. “Count me out when it comes to BRAC,” she said.

Graham, however, said to count him in. “I do believe it's appropriate to consider another round of BRAC, as hard as that is for our colleagues,” Graham said.

There’s likely to be just as much opposition on the House side when Panetta and Dempsey testify there Wednesday, as House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) has said he’s opposed. House Armed Services ranking member Adam SmithAdam SmithOvernight Defense: Trump transgender ban sets off storm Trump triggers storm with transgender ban Armed Services leaders appoint strategy panel members MORE (D-Wash.) has said he could support it.