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House panel votes to stop DoD from even studying BRAC

Jun. 5, 2013 - 02:57PM   |  
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A House committee opposed to more base closings and realignments debated Wednesday how deeply to drive a stake into the Defense Department plan.

The House Armed Services Committee faced two choices: approve an amendment banning formation of a Base Closing Commission in 2014 and 2015, or go even further and ban the military from spending any money on investigating, studying or planning for the idea.

On a committee filled with lawmakers whose congressional districts include military bases, BRAC is considered an economic hurricane that could destroy communities, so the stiffer language survived.

The committe voted 44-18 to not just stop BRAC, but also to stop studies.

The House of Representatives approved a similar provision on Tuesday as part of the 2014 military construction appropriations bill.

“Most of us try to protect defense programs not because we like them, but because we need them,” said Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va. He argued that cutting bases would make it impossible to increase military force structure.

“Inside the Pentagon, planning is the process. Once you start these things, there is no turning around,” he said.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said she did not think DoD studies could be trusted. “For the 2005 round of base closing, military officials underestimated the upfront costs of closing bases and building new facilities for units that had to be moved to another location and overestimated how much would be saved,” she said.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., supported at least studying the idea. “We have to at least know what the number is,” Coffman said.

BRAC is expensive in the short term but saves money over time, said Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the committee’s ranking Democrat. He accused opponents of base closings of being short-sighted, thinking only of their own district’s interests.

“I don’t think this committee has the luxury of being so darned parochial anymore,” Smith said.

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