Sen. Levin: Pentagon push for new round of base closures going nowhere

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) says the Pentagon didn’t “put their money where their mouth is,” and doesn’t see their proposal for a new round of base closures gaining any traction in the Senate this year.

The Pentagon included $2.4 billion for base closures in this year’s Defense budget, but Levin told The Hill that he didn’t think the money added up to much, because none of it was included in the 2014 budget, only in 2015 and beyond.

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“They didn’t put their money where their mouth is this year — they put their money where their mouth is next year,” Levin said.

Levin’s opposition to base closures makes it difficult for the Pentagon to get the policy proposal included in this year’s Defense Department policy bill.

Before the budget was released, Levin said he’d be surprised if the Pentagon included the proposal because of the intensity of congressional opposition.

The Pentagon in its 2014 budget proposed beginning a new round of base closures in 2015, with the bases not being shuttered until 2016.

The Pentagon included $2.4 billion to pay for the new round of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC), as closing bases requires an up-front cost before generating savings.

That was a step up from the 2013 budget request, when there was no money included for two rounds of base closures and lawmakers quickly dismissed it.

But lawmakers have been hostile to the idea of new base closures even before the budget came out, saying it was an unnecessary step at a time when Pentagon budgets were trim.

Congress is loathe to accept base closures which can hit a lawmaker’s district with a major economic impact and job losses.

The Pentagon argues that infrastructure cuts are needed because the department already has more than 20 percent excess infrastructure, a number that will continue to grow as the number of service members is reduced.

So far, it doesn’t appear that Congress is buying the argument, however.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Hill Tuesday he is also opposed to new base closures.

“The first five years it’s going to cost money, and this is not the environment you want to spend money,” Inhofe said.

He added that Republicans who want to boost the military don’t want to cut infrastructure further because they hope the bases will be needed when a Republican is occupying the White House.

On the House side, Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee Chairman Rob Wittman (R-Va.) has already held a hearing before the budget release where he and other lawmakers slammed the notion of further base closures.

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