Battleland

Base Motives

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Let’s suppose you’re a typical American family, with kids that have largely grown up and flown the coop, leaving you and your spouse empty-nesters. Well, maybe not complete empty-nesters. You had a rather large brood, and before you consider downsizing, you need to figure out how many kids are actually still living at home. So you conduct a bunk check, seeing who has moved out and who has still failed to launch.

As the Pentagon shrinks, it logically wants to do the same thing.

But get this: Congress has barred the U.S. military from seeing how many empty bedrooms – oops, make that surplus posts, bases, hangars, piers and runways – it has.

Because…if the Pentagon doesn’t know how much excess infrastructure it has, there’s no way it can ask Congress for permission to shutter more bases. Ain’t democracy grand?

Some in the Defense Department don’t think so. “We have been precluded under recent [annual defense-spending authorization laws] from spending any money to do the kind of analysis that can provide a highly-specific answer” regarding how much wasted space the Pentagon has, Army Secretary John McHugh said Tuesday. “But we have pretty good analysis from about a decade ago that showed at the time that the Army was about 20% over-structured.”

Amid tough economic times, and a shrinking military budget, Congress is in no mood to let the Pentagon close additional bases. Over the past 25 years, more than 350 military installations have been closed by so-called Base Realignment and Closure commissions, or BRACs (pronounced “brack”). But it has been nearly a decade since the last BRAC round, and the Pentagon wants another in 2015 to shed its excess real estate.

Under the BRAC process, the Pentagon recommends bases to be closed to a special commission, which can tweak the list before sending it on to Congress for a final up or down vote on the entire list (in the good ol’ days, Congress — believe it or not — actually made tough decisions on its own without handing them off to such subcontractors). But military bases and the jobs they provide voters, have become cherished pets of Congress. Lawmakers have no interest in a sixth BRAC round.

“While base closures and realignments often create socioeconomic distress in communities initially, research has shown that they generally have not had the dire effects that many communities expected,” the Congressional Research Service reported last year. But no one actually believes that.

When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee two weeks ago, he said lawmakers “need to look at our domestic footprint” and launch a new round of base closings.

No way, Congress countered. Things have gotten so bad on the BRAC front that Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the armed services committee, referred to the Pentagon claim of savings as an “allegation.” He told folks back home not to worry. “I would urge our constituents not to start lawyering up and hiring consultants” to keep the local military base open, he said, “because it’s got a long, long way to go before Congress approves another BRAC round.”

Congress contends it costs too much to close bases, and takes too long to realize any savings. Besides, there are overseas bases that remain open, they like to point out.

“Now is not the time to spend billions of dollars on another BRAC round, especially as the Department of Defense grounds combat aircraft and cancels ship deployments due to sequestration,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s readiness panel, told Pentagon officials last week. The Government Accountability Office estimated the 2005 BRAC round cost $35 billion, topping the initial $21 billion estimate by 67%. “In this time of fiscal uncertainty,” Shaheen said, “we clearly can’t afford another round like the last one.”

Pentagon officials say the high cost of the 2005 round was a fluke, carried out while the military was expanding in both troops and dollars. “The previous five rounds of BRAC are providing us with recurring savings of  $12 or $13 billion every year, savings that does not result in decreased capability because it is derived from the elimination of excess,” countered John Conger, the acting deputy defense under secretary for installations. “That’s like getting a new aircraft carrier every year, or six submarines.”

Conger said Congress created the BRAC process to wring politics out of the base-closing process. “One of the dynamics that led to BRAC in the first place was that when base closures were proposed, there was politics. It depended on who the chairman was, you know, based on what got closed and what didn’t get closed,” he said. “And this was a way to take politics out of the process and put it into a `You can’t edit this list’ type of dynamic, so you didn’t have the base closures dependent on who was the most senior person at the table.”

The Army isn’t alone when it comes to excess real estate. “While we have no current capacity analysis from which to draw, our capacity analysis from 2004 suggested that 24% of our basing infrastructure was excess to needs,” Kathleen Ferguson, the Air Force’s top basing official, told Congress last Thursday.

“The last BRAC was based on 340 cruisers-equivalents. We don’t have anywhere near 340 cruiser-equivalents, we don’t have anywhere near 340 ships and it’s unlikely we will have that many,” Vice Admiral William Burke, the deputy chief of naval operations, told a House panel last Friday. “We are carrying excess overhead that we need to get at.”

Money spent keeping unneeded bases open is wasted. “I’d rather be spending an available dollar on a new platform to keep our soldiers safe,” McHugh said. “I’d rather be spending it on a new program to support our soldiers and their families, than to sustaining infrastructure that is simply not usable.”

Of course, McHugh spent 17 years in Congress, representing the upstate New York district that is home to the Army’s Fort Drum. He protected the huge base from several BRAC rounds. “I went through three of them in Congress,” he noted, “and not many of them were fun.”

Battleland asked McHugh if Congress is “irresponsible” for barring the military from determining how much excess property it now has. “I’m not going to characterize what Congress does in that fashion,” he said adroitly. “I will say that it does not provide us the opportunity to make informed judgments.”

But the former lawmaker also said he understands what’s motivating his former colleagues. “I probably would have voted for it,” he said, if he were still on Capitol Hill.

13 comments
realcents
realcents

We do need to be real..sure it would be tough..but change isn't easy. We need to be strategic, with our modern technology we do not need all the bases that we have in the US. Realistically if we restructured, we could do just fine with 10 joint bases strategically located in the US.

JuanReynoso
JuanReynoso

LATINOS FOR HONEST GOVERNMENT

THE TRUTH WILL BUILD TRUST, AND TRUST WILL BUILD PEACE AND FREEDOM

Open letter to: The Washington political incompetents and dysfunctional corrupt government.

Will any one trust Obama, Harry Reid, Pelosi and the ones that are part of the Washington culture of corruption? . Our only salvation to stop the demise of our economic is to stop the Washington culture of corruption and do the following:

1-Cut all funding for military intervention in foreign countries, we cannot continue being the world’s bully. It cost to much, lives and money we don’t have.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/sep/14/ron-paul/ron-paul-says-us-has-military-personnel-130-nation/

http://www.alternet.org/story/47998/737_u.s._military_bases_%3D_global_empire

http://nation.time.com/2013/05/02/base-motives/

2-Cut all food assistance, people in this country need to re-store their dignity and work for what they get no more free lunch. WIC and Medicaid should be tie to an education program to cut this cost to tax payers.

http://demonocracy.info/infographics/usa/food_stamps/food_stamp_nation-SNAP.html

3-Defund Obama care this is a republican type of government not a socialist.

http://dailycaller.com/2013/09/12/union-fix-to-obamacare-would-cost-taxpayers-190-billion/

4-Tax all products that are manufacture in foreign countries. Free trade is a farce.Free trade is legislation for the exploitation of the world human and natural resources for the benefit of the multinational corporations, they got rich at the expenses of the working people of the world.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/business/2012-03/01/c_131439204.htm

5-Get Americans working and healthy by implementing a two year military and social service to America. All Americans must contribute to the country’s, social or military service this is a must; and will cut cost on many government services done by civilians at the present time.

Military+Draft

6-Cut all waste by implementing a zero-based budge system. Start by allocating expenses on the need to have VS we want to have.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-based_budgeting

7-Billions of Dollars are wasted every year and this must stop, we cannot continue expending what we don’t have.

http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=b7b23f66-2d60-4d5a-8bc5-8522c7e1a40e

8-Cut Obama’s vacations and travel to foreign countries and have him meet foreign head of states in Washington.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2210323/Obama-family-costs-taxpayers-1-4BILLION-year.html

http://mobile.wnd.com/2013/08/obamas-have-sweet-tooth-for-luxury-travel/

http://www.westernjournalism.com/insider-obama-plans-to-kill-u-s-dollar/

http://www.buygoldco.com/doomed-dollar-devaluation-policy/

http://dailycapitalist.com/tag/dollar-devaluation/

http://www.infowars.com/dollar-devaluation-and-destruction-of-america-pick-up-steam/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/charleskadlec/2012/02/06/the-federal-reserves-explicit-goal-devalue- the-dollar-33/

http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/81279/federal-reserve-ben-bernanke-devalue-dollar-inflation

http://www.globalpolicy.org/images/pdfs/GPF_Dangerous_Partnership_Full_report.pdf

barrios
barrios

As the President would say, it's very hard to get your hands around a structural impasse like this.  As in the case of NRA opposition to gun control, the vocal minority (base-dependent interests) can easily prevail over the relatively indifferent majority.  But we must force ourselves to imagine a path whereby a national outcry against wasteful defense spending changes opinion in all the affected districts.  A movement for base closures would benefit from some creative ideas for base conversion that could offer other employment alternatives; but this is not virgin territory.  Fort Drum, for example, is in windpower country; couldn't that become an alternative industry?  

grape_crush
grape_crush

This is just dumb. Budgetary hypocrisy mixed with NIMBY-ism.

> Congress contends it costs too much to close bases, and takes too long to realize any savings. 

Penny-wise, pound-foolish.


tom.litton
tom.litton

As i'm typing this there are 46 people listening.  The article about the Obamacare application process getting simpler had hundreds of people listening.

That's a good indication how congress gets away with this kind of thing.  Nobody cares to even read about their selfishness and stupidity.  It's become expected and normal.  

Congress will do nothing more or less than what it takes to get re-elected.  That is the essence of democracy, and it's greatest fault.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

The right wing form of welfare and entitlement. 

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. 

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

— President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961.

The only thing that needs updating is "Congressional-military-industrial complex."


forgottenlord
forgottenlord

"We don't need tanks"

"You're getting tanks"

"We don't need bases"

"You're getting bases"

"We have a problem with shuttering 10% of our budget"

"We're cutting your budget by 10%"

"So why did you force us to buy tanks?"

"Because you need tanks"

"Uh... And why did you force us to keep bases?"

"Because we need bases"

"Uh....

outsider
outsider

Seriously - have to cut spending - but don't look at where the waste is?


Congress is a joke

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

I love Congress ramming things down the Pentagon's throat it doesn't want or need, and then ignoring the overall cost why decrying spending.  What a joke.

gysgt213
gysgt213

@tom.litton

"That's a good indication how congress gets away with this kind of thing.  Nobody cares to even read about their selfishness and stupidity.  It's become expected and normal. "

And congress knows we are not paying attention since we are either scrambling for a job or fighting to keep one if we are lucky to still have one. 


shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@S_Deemer  I actually think this on is all on The (parochial) Congress. Contractors make money doing the analysis, closing the bases and then get the eventual savings in the form of more weapons and materials procurement. Maybe they can get our Congresscritters to do the right thing.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@gysgt213 @tom.litton This started way before the recession.  

I think it's a combination of several things coming together:

1. 24 hour news turned "news" into entertainment and a quest for ratings instead of informing the public. 

2. Growing inequality makes it in the interest of the riches Americans and corporations to spend more and more money to protect their wealth. 

3.  Political science has gotten very very good over the last few decades, and is trumping the common good when they are in conflict. 


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