WHAT OTHERS SAY: Base closure talks needed to get serious about deficit control

Monday, April 2, 2012 | 10:48 a.m. CDT

We had low expectations that Congress would do anything serious this year about the U.S. budget, but even low expectations were too high.

The latest evidence is the political maneuvering over whether to even talk about a new round of military base closings.

We're sorry to see U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., using her influence as chair of a Senate Armed Services subcommittee to block a potential Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC).

We side with her Republican Senate colleague, Roy Blunt of Springfield, who favors the idea of a nonpartisan, independent body to review military installations and make recommendations for closure and consolidation. As during the previous round of closings in 2005, the BRAC recommendations then are subject to a straight up-or-down vote in Congress, making it easier for politicians to accept overall recommendations even when it includes a closure that hits in their district or state.

Of course, McCaskill's opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate is part of the carefully choreographed effort by Congress to avoid any tough decisions this year. In the Republican-controlled House, it is Republicans on the Armed Services readiness subcommittee who are opposed to the idea.

Meanwhile, it's left to the Obama administration – which doesn't have much to brag about itself when it comes to deficit control – to make the case for a new round of review.

According to a Washington Post report, Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told the House subcommittee the military needs to get "rid of capacity we don't need so we can use the resources elsewhere."

She said the department has more than 300,000 buildings and 2.2 billion square feet of space, which is "more than Wal-Mart."

It is fair to take a hard look at the real and substantial costs of BRAC and consider the short-term and long-term paybacks. We'd also lament the loss of key Missouri bases, such as Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base (though both are generally considered to be in a strong position to survive any closing consideration).

But we lament more the lack of will to even take a look at it.

Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.

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