The Defense Department has released its proposed list of installations and bases to close, and if you don;t remember what this was like ten years ago, get ready for some hysterics:
The Pentagon will propose shutting 150 military installations from Maine to Hawaii, including 33 major bases, The Associated Press learned Friday, triggering the first round of base closures in a decade and an intense struggle by communities to save their facilities.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will also recommend a list of scores of other domestic bases from which thousands of troops would be withdrawn, or in some cases added from other installations in the United States or overseas. He has said the move would save $48.8 billion over 20 years while making the military more mobile and better suited for the global effort against terrorism.
Rumsfeld’s plan calls for a massive shift of U.S. forces that would result in a net loss of 29,005 military and civilian jobs at domestic installations. Overall, he proposes pulling 218,570 military and civilian positions out of some U.S. bases while adding 189,565 positions to others, according to documents obtained by The AP.
West Virginia came off pretty light, losing the Bias U.S. Army Reserve Center in Huntington, the Fairmont U.S. Army Reserve Center, and the Navy-Marine Corps Reserve Center in Moundsville. The last one strikes a little close to home, as that was home to a bunch of my buddies who were in the Marine Corps when I was also in the National Guard in Moundsville. Oh, well.
At any rate, the hysterics have already begun here, with Sen. Byrd leading the charge. I just heard him on the radio with Hoppy Kercheval, and he spared no time bringing out the rhetorical big gun. He accused the administration of abandoning the troops, of disregarding their rights, and whole host of other nonsense. The administration, for the most part, has really nothing to do with this, and neither, really, does Congress.
If you are wondering why they have nothing to do with it, the short answer is that they are cowards. Come to think of it, that really should suffice as the long answer. Basically, in the past few decades, Congress has moved more towards delegating elsewhere the decision-making for de-distributive policies, meaning, spreading the blame around for their cowardice. Some call it “evasive delegation.”
At any rate, in 1988 BRACC was formed because Congress, for over a decade, had refused to enact any of the base closures that the Pentagon was asking for. It was too unpopular, they couldn’t deal with the political pressure, and they did not want to, in essence, do their job. So they passed it off on someone else while maximizing their capacity to demagogue the issue.
This isn’t the only time they have done this sort of thing, and there are other examples, including Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, aka the “Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985,” which kicked in automatic budget cuts if Congress itself did not have the political will.
At any rate, the outcome of BRACC is that the hard decisions Congress should make are pushed off on someone else, but congresscritters get to run around and fight valiantly for their constituents, employing all sorts of inflammatory rhetoric and appearing like a white knight riding to the rescue of the poor down-trodden citizens. Which is why Byrd was just on the radio making the statements he made, and why Joe Lieberman was just on television telling us he is ready to “Go to battle” to save the Naval submarine base in Groton.
It is also why the procedure works the way it does, though previous incarnations of BRACC were different. Now that the Pentagon has made their proposals, this will be studied by the commission who will then make the decisions what institutions are included. When BRACC is done with their list, it is forwarded to Congress.
But, you say- doesn’t Congress then have authority to change the list? The answer is, not really, and this is where the spinelessness approaches new heights. The list, as forwarded by BRACC, can either be approved or disapproved, but it can not be altered. In other words, they have to approve the ENTIRE list, and Congress can not add or remove specific installations.
Which makes the inevitable battle cries from Congressmen and Senators in the next few weeks even more hysterical (and now I mean in the funny sense). The spinelessness of it all is sickening, but such is life with modern politicans. If you want an excellent primer on this isue, I would recommend this outstanding 1998 dissertation by Dr. Lilly Goren. I believe academics can get this free through their Electronic Dissertation thingy with their respective libraries.
A quick note- I mentioned Byrd and Lieberman by name, but I am in no way singling out Democrats. Byrd is my senator, so that is the media coverage I heard immediately. Lieberman just happened to be on MSNBC as I was typing this. This will be bi-partisan tomfoolery, with politicans on both sides of the aisle launching salvos. I can’t wait to watch Sen. Thune work his way out of his campaign assurance to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base, the largest employer in South Dakota, which is now on the chopping block. When it comes to dedistributive policy decisons, all politicans are shrill when it is their constituency losing money.
*** Update ***
Several quick things to keep in mind when you hear politicans shrieking incoherently over the next few months, and one more bit of food for thought:
1.) The only thing that should be kept in mind when making military decisions should be:
“Will this make the military stronger?”
If it does not make a soldier/sailor/airman/marine shoot, move, or communicate better, your argument should be ignored. These realignments and consolidations make deployment easier, and allow assets to be used for other vital functions, so whining about economic impact will fall on deaf ears at this website.
2.) This, in the grand scheme of things, is chump change. Savings of two billion a year out of a close to 400 billion budget is one half of one per cent of total military spending.
3.) I do worry that closing all small depots, armories, and bases can have a negative impact in the sense that it could detach the military from the public as a whole. In general, I thought it was good from a public relations and recruitment standpoint to have the community in Moundsville interacting with the Marines stationed there.