House says no to more base closures

The House Armed Services Committee is not including two new rounds of base closures that were requested by the Pentagon in its Defense authorization bill, making the proposal all but dead in Congress this year.

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon said he was rejecting the Pentagon’s proposal for another two rounds of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission as the committee released its Readiness subcommittee markup on Thursday.

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The omission is not too surprising, as McKeon has previously indicated his opposition to new BRAC rounds during committee hearings on the budget.

The Pentagon had said it wanted to close bases because it has excess infrastructure already, a gap that will grow as it plans to reduce its forces over the next five years.

But the Defense Department did not include a dollar savings or cost for the proposal in the budget, which was a sign it knew getting more BRAC rounds would be an uphill battle in Congress.

BRAC was one of the most contentious issues in the budget hearings, as members fought to defend local bases and argued that the last round of BRAC in 2005 has still yet to produce savings.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tried to make the case that he knew BRAC was difficult as a former congressman who went through it himself, but it was a necessary pill to swallow.

In the Senate, Armed Services Readiness subcommittee Chairwoman Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has already said she won’t be including BRAC in the Senate’s authorization bill.

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