NORFOLK -- After years of resisting, Congress may consider a proposal to allow military base closings -- but under restrictive rules that give communities veto power, U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman said Thursday.
Wittman, a Westmoreland County Republican and senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said during a Navy League luncheon at The Main hotel that he would support a proposal that addresses the military's concern that it's wasting money by keeping unneeded facilities.
Hampton Roads federal lawmakers and community leaders have been skittish for years about any talk of closing military facilities -- particularly in a region where 40 percent of the economy is tied to defense and other federal spending. In 2005, a Base Realignment and Closure Commission or BRAC -- appointed to select facilities to shut down -- led to the closing of the Army's Fort Monroe and consideration of a recommendation to close Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach.
Wittman said the plan, which could be an amendment to the 2019 defense spending bill, would be limited to small bases or "tangential facilities" identified by the Pentagon.
"They would have to say that it's excess inventory and we don't need it," Wittman said. "And the localities would have to say that it's OK to do that.
"I'd be very amenable to that. It brings everybody to the table to discuss excess capacity," added Wittman, who is chairman of the committee's Seapower and Force Projection Subcommittee.
"My concern is this: I do think we need to shed ourselves of facilities and do it the right way. Remember, if we get rid of facilities in strategically centered locations -- that is, population centers -- you will never ever get them back."
Craig Quigley, executive director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, said the new approach shouldn't be a threat.
The alliance was created and is supported financially by local governments and businesses in the wake of the 2005 BRAC.
"Conceptually, it's hard to argue with that idea of the military and host community both thinking a facility should close," Quigley said. "From a Hampton Roads perspective, I'm hard pressed to think of an example of this.
This article is written by Bill Bartel from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.