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Defense Chief Drops Plans to Seek Base Closures

Following McCaskill’s Fight, Fort Leonard Wood, Whiteman Air Force Base, and Rosecrans Air National Guard Base in Missouri safe from closure in 2013, Senator chairs panel with jurisdiction over military readiness that had blocked closures this year

August 6, 2012

WASHINGTON - Following a four-month fight waged by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill to protect military communities from base closures, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta today abandoned his plans for domestic base closures in 2013, and agreed to McCaskill's request that the Pentagon instead focus on saving money by closing down overseas installations.

"This is a win for Missouri's military families and communities-there were just too many questions surrounding the proposed base closures, and about the only thing certain was the job losses and harm to businesses that would have come from these decisions," said McCaskill, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Until we know exactly how much money has been saved in the past, how much money new closures would save, and until we've taken a tough look at our thousands of installations overseas, I plan to keep standing up to protect our military communities from arbitrary closures."

Earlier this year, the Pentagon requested a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in order to cut federal spending in the defense budget. Congress would have to approve legislation to create a new base-closing commission, which would then carry out an independent review of military installations and make recommendations to Congress for closures. The recommendations would not be amendable and would be subject to a single up-or-down vote.

In March, McCaskill told top military officials that, as Chairman of the Senate panel with jurisdiction over base closures, she would not allow any plan to move forward this year to close U.S. military bases here at home. McCaskill chairs the Subcommittee on Military Readiness and Management Support-which has jurisdiction over base closures-and told Pentagon officials that they had not made a convincing case that another round of base closures would benefit American taxpayers or national security.

McCaskill specifically pointed to serious questions that have been raised about how much money was actually saved in the most recent round of closures in 2005. McCaskill argued that the Pentagon should take a thorough look at how much could be saved by closing military installations overseas, many of which she said are relics of the Cold War.

"While I applaud the Department's desire to find responsible places to achieve savings, there is one area where there is absolutely no room for compromise this year: BRAC," McCaskill told military leaders. "I will not support the request for a BRAC process to be carried out in 2013. Government auditors have not yet completed a final analysis of the recently completed 2005 BRAC round. Congress needs a more complete understanding of our planned force structure, including our overseas force posture, before we even considering a new round of BRAC."

McCaskill added that the upfront costs of base closures could be crippling at a time of constrained defense budgets. The base-closure model typically provides for significant upfront costs to move units from closing facilities, with the costs only recovered from savings realized well into the future.

In May, McCaskill also successfully excluded language from the National Defense Authorization Act that would have authorized an additional round of BRAC. In so doing, McCaskill ensured that the Defense Department would not have the legal authority to attempt to pursue a round of base closures in 2013.

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