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Panel rejects Pentagon's request for base closings

May. 23, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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WASHINGTON — A new round of military base closings is going nowhere in Congress.

The House Armed Services readiness subcommittee passed a bill Thursday rejecting the Obama administration’s request for more domestic base closings.

Military leaders are cutting the number of troops and argue the drawdown will leave them with more installations than they need. The money saved by closing unused facilities can be spent on training and other essential operations.

But military installations are often the economic lifeblood of the communities that surround them and any discussion about shutting bases down is politically charged, especially at a time when the U.S. economy is still in recovery.

Rep. Robert Wittman, R-Va., the subcommittee’s chairman, said there is too much uncertainty about the appropriate size of the armed forces to justify any closings at this time. Thousands of U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan and a series of strategic reviews on the right size and structure of the military have yet to be completed, he said.

Wittman also said the initial cost of a new base closure round is too high in a time of fiscal austerity.

The Pentagon budget for 2014 fiscal year seeks $2.4 billion over five years to cover the upfront expense of base closings. Decisions on which bases to close would start to be made in 2015 and implemented a year later, according to the military’s plan.

“It’s premature to expend dollars we don’t have to fix a problem we’re not sure exists,” Wittman said. “Strategy, not budgets, should drive national security decisions and I won’t support a reduction in our infrastructure until I’m confident our nation’s readiness, and our military, won’t suffer.”

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