McCain 'seriously considering' issue of military base closures

McCain 'seriously considering' issue of military base closures
© Greg Nash

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate panel advances 6B defense policy bill McCain: Trump pardoning Jack Johnson 'closes a shameful chapter in our nation’s history' Trump pardons late boxing champion Jack Johnson MORE (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday that he is "seriously considering" the possibility of closing excess military bases to cut down on waste. 

McCain said during a committee hearing that he and Ranking Member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Pompeo lays out new Iran terms | Pentagon hints at more aggressive posture against Iran | House, Senate move on defense bill Defense bill moves forward with lawmakers thinking about McCain Overnight Defense: Trump aide's comment mocking McCain sparks outrage | Haspel gets another 'no' vote | Pompeo floats North Korea aid for denuclearization MORE (D-R.I.) "are seriously considering the issue of [base closure and realignment (BRAC)]," referring to a process to close and consolidate bases. 

Despite tightening defense budgets in recent years, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have opposed closing excess military bases due to the negative impact it could have on local communities and constituents. 

ADVERTISEMENT
But McCain said the issue needs to be confronted. 

"We need to talk about and I think it has to be considered — as all things, it has to be on the table," he said.  

He suggested that even the reliance on BRAC is a "cowardly act because it shows we can't make the tough decisions ourselves."  

After the hearing, he told reporters, "I think we have to examine all of the options that we have to make our military, our defense at the lowest possible cost to the American taxpayers. Right now we do have excess properties and facilities, and I think we need to look at it.” 

Asked whether base closures would be in the 2018 fiscal budget prepared by the Armed Services Committees, he said, "I don't know. We're just starting the conversation. We're in the first week. [Defense Secretary James Mattis] and I would have to discuss this." 

Reed also put the issue in the broader context of the budget.

"It's all part of the general important category of how do you find savings so that you can redirect them into personnel, troop support, quality of life, training, readiness — all the critical things," Reed told The Hill after the hearing. 

"When I was in the service, training and readiness was the biggest morale factor, because if troops felt prepared, they felt good," he added. 

McCain has proposed boosting base defense spending for 2018 to $640 billion — $54 billion above current plans — but will have to convince fiscal hawks who favor limiting federal spending under a Trump administration. 

McCain called for cutting Pentagon waste in his opening remarks. 

"We must continue our reform efforts to make the Department of Defense more effective and efficient, while cutting wasteful spending," he said.  

 “And it will not be easy. Rebuilding America’s military will require spending political capital and making policy tradeoffs. None of these challenges should obscure the fact that rebuilding America’s military is the right and necessary thing to do." 

- Updated at 11:31 p.m.