House members clash over base closure rules

But Smith's proposal, offered as an amendment to the House panel's markup of the Pentagon's fiscal year 2014 budget plan, would allow the Department of Defense (DOD) to plan for future rounds of closures. 

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The Washington Democrat's amendment undoes the original language in the House defense budget bill, restricting any DOD dollars going toward base closure research. 

The amendment was defeated by voice vote, and later defeated by roll call vote of 44 to 18. 

As part of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress approved legislation blocking the Army and the rest of the armed forces from spending any funds to evaluate possible base closures.

But with the DOD facing an uncertain fiscal future due to budget cuts under the White House's sequestration plan, Congress should allow the Pentagon time to prepare, Smith said. 

"'With all of that happening, I don't think this committee has the luxury to be so parochial," Smith said. 

Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiThis week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington Trump labels Tlaib 'a despicable human being' Tlaib says Democrats have discussed detaining White House officials who don't testify MORE (D-Calif) backed the Smith amendment, saying lawmakers needed to give the DOD every opportunity to plan "to make some very tough decisions.

Top military leaders have pressed Congress to allow for base closure planning, saying the Pentagon is already wasting millions in preserving aging and dilapidated military bases. 

In April, Army Secretary John McHugh said basing BRAC decisions on nearly decade-old data simply "does not provide us the [evidence] to make informed judgments.”

Air Force leaders are already looking at condensing the number of potential bases for their incoming fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, former Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said that same month. 

Along with consolidating the number of future Air Force bases to house the F-35s, service leaders are looking to shutter the Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, Donley told reporters shortly before his retirement in June. 

"The sight picture here is as the Air Force gets smaller ... we are confident we have excess infrastructure" to spare, he said at the time. 

The amendment sparked a spirited debate among committee members, who are under pressure to keep bases open and preserve the local communities who depend on those facilities for their economic survival. 

Critics say Smith's amendment would make future BRAC rounds inevitable since at the DOD, "planning is the process."

Smith shot back that "proposing and planning is not doing" since the Pentagon proposed and planned for a BRAC round for 2013, but Congress defeated it earlier this year.