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HASC Chairman on BRAC: 'Kill it'

House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon kept his answer short when asked what he would do if he received the Pentagon's request for two rounds of base closures.

"Kill it," McKeon said Wednesday at the Reserve Officer Association National Security Symposium in Washington D.C.

He's the latest member of Congress to reject Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's request to close installations as the U.S. shrinks its military force structure.

The site of the ROA conference, a downtown Marriott hotel packed with Guard and Reserve officers, offered a preview of the forthcoming battle between Congress and the military in defense hearings scheduled to discuss a new Defense Closure and Base Realignment Commission (BRAC).

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey walked into the hotel's Thurgood Marshall ballroom and stated his case why the military needs two more rounds of BRAC to account for the 80,000 soldiers, 20,000 Marines and 10,000 airmen the services plan to cut from their end strength.

"If we’re adjusting the size of the force, we think we should ask Congress for a BRAC," Dempsey told the crowd.

An hour after the Army four-star walked out, the Republican chair stood behind the same podium and dismissed the option out of hand.

"I'm not going to put it in my bill," McKeon said.

And there's the rub. No matter how much the Pentagon wants another round of base closures it must have Congress' blessing. Two more rounds of BRAC in a presidential election year seems like a "non-starter" on Capitol Hill right now, according to defense analysts.

McKeon questioned if the military can prove if closing bases has saved the amount of money the Defense Department promised.

Of course, not everyone in the House Armed Services Committee agrees with McKeon. This is the U.S. Congress after all.

The House Armed Services Committee's ranking member  didn't dismiss the BRAC option. Rep. Adam Smith told Defense News' Kate Brannen that "without question we’re going to have to do base realignment."

McKeon conceded the military could reduce infrastructure as it pares down projected defense spending by at least $487 billion over the next 10 years.

"I'm not saying we don't have excess properties and things we could do away with," he said.

 

 

 

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