McCaskill deals serious blow to BRAC

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Wednesday that she will
not let new rounds of base closures pass her subcommittee this year, dealing a
potentially fatal blow to the Pentagon’s plans for the Base
Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) in its 2013 budget.

“There is one area where there is absolutely no room for
compromise this year, and that is BRAC,” McCaskill said Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate
Armed Services Readiness and Management Support subcommittee, which she chairs.

{mosads}“I will not support the request for BRAC process to be
carried out in 2013,” she said.

The Defense Department’s request for two new rounds of BRAC
in 2013 and 2015 has been met with stiff opposition in Congress since it was
announced, but McCaskill’s comments Tuesday are the surest sign yet that BRAC
is going nowhere in the 2013 budget.

There has been bipartisan opposition to more base closures in both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, with two exceptions: House ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have said they back the idea.

The Pentagon’s budget, which cuts $487 billion over the next
decade, included the BRAC rounds but did not attach a cost or savings estimate to
implementing the base closures, suggesting the Pentagon knew it would be an
uphill battle.

Pentagon press secretary George Little downplayed the 2013 BRAC
proposal at a Wednesday press conference.

“BRAC was not part of the $487 billion proposal that we made
to the Congress, but we thought it was the responsible thing to do, given the
budgetary pressures that we were all under,” Little said. “We were really
trying to exercise good fiscal discipline, and we thought it would be important
to at least put BRAC on the table.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has acknowledged how
unpopular BRAC is in hearings — pointing out that his district in California
was affected by BRAC when he was a congressman. But Panetta has tried to make
the case that the base closures are needed for long-term savings as the Defense
Department reduces its forces by 100,000 and will have more excess infrastructure.

The argument hasn’t gone over well on Capitol Hill.

McCaskill pointed to the last BRAC round in 2005, which the
Government Accountability Office has said will not begin to see savings until
2018. McCaskill and others have said that the up-front costs associated with
closing bases mean the Pentagon should not do so when it needs to trim budgets

McCaskill also argued Wednesday that bases had to be closed
abroad before closing more domestically, which Senate Armed Services Chairman
(D-Mich.) has also suggested.

Pentagon officials say they want to simultaneously look at overseas
and domestic closures. They argue that the 2005 BRAC round is not a fair
comparison because it involved significant overhauls in the midst of two wars. 

Tags Adam Smith Claire McCaskill Lindsey Graham

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