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Don't remove community voice from debates on base closures

Mar 15, 2012 - By Newsday (Long Island, N.Y.)

The Pentagon is under orders from Congress to cut about $1 trillion in spending, yet its proposal for two new rounds of base closings got a cold reception on Capitol Hill last week.

The Department of Defense has more than 700 bases in the United States and abroad.

When military officials say closing some would save money without compromising national security, Congress should listen and authorize new base realignment and closure (BRAC) commissions to determine which should go.

The Pentagon has to cut its spending by $487 billion over the next decade if it is to meet new standards for deficit reduction established by Congress.

That amount is slated to increase by $600 billion next year because a recent congressional supercommittee failed to come up with an alternative deficit-reduction plan.

The proposal for the first new BRACs since 2005 came under bipartisan attack in a House Armed Services subcommittee because, at this early stage, it didn't include an estimate of the savings.

But congressional opposition to closing bases usually has more to do with protecting jobs in members' districts than concern about maximizing savings.

Congress can reject BRAC recommendations entirely, but it can't amend them, leaving little room for political mischief.

Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn testified that if Congress doesn't allow new BRAC rounds, the Pentagon will use its own authority to close bases, which would mean less of a role for the communities involved.

Congress shouldn't let it come to that as the Pentagon fights the good fight to make do with less.

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