Texas Democrats Urge Pentagon to Reevaluate Foreign Bases Before Cutting Domestic Operations
May 18, 2013
Chief Warrant Officer 2, Antonio Ramirez, left, and Staff Sgt. Norman Llama speak in front of a pair of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in Ft. Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre)
A group of Texas lawmakers is urging Pentagon officials to look abroad for potential budgetary savings before turning a critical eye toward domestic spending.
San Antonio Rep. Joaquin Castro is making an effort to gather signatures on a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to request a delay in considering any base closures within the United States, instead examining the relevancy and purpose for foreign-based military structures. The letter is co-signed by fellow Texas Democrats Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Pete Gallego of Alpine, all who have major bases in their own districts. The trio write:
As we draw down from the war in Afghanistan, shift our strategic focus to the Pacific, and reduce active-duty personnel and equipment across the services, we believe it is prudent for the Department of Defense to reevaluate its current overseas basing structure to ensure we can maintain our operational requirements and strategic commitments abroad while also reducing costs in this budget environment. We understand the Pentagon has already ordered an assessment of our European infrastructure and we look forward to reviewing the results of those recommendations. With this information, Congress will be able to make informed decisions regarding the necessity of additional base closure sand realignments here at home.
The last major round of base realignments and closures occurred in 2005, which impacted several bases throughout Texas.
“The military installations in our states have a profound impact on the families in our communities,” the letter says. “We owe it to them to make sure we have realized all possible cost savings abroad before we consider another round of BRAC back home.”
Gallego and Veasey are both members of the House Arm Service committee and are looking for bipartisan support. Gallego said that bipartisan interest is there.
“We must have responsible policies that preserve our military readiness and protect our country’s economy,” he said in a statement. “Military installations in our state impact readiness, but they also have a profound impact on the bottom lines of families.”
Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has been a constant campaigner for Texas against BRAC closures and changes. Although she is no longer a sitting member of Congress, Hutchison iterated her stance on the issue recently an op-ed in the San Antonio Express-News last month.
“For now, Congress should deny this request. Until the Pentagon does a serious analysis of all our current overseas installations to include the cost, deployment capability and training capacity, and actually closes redundant bases overseas and brings some missions home, it would be premature to authorize another round of BRAC that might close bases still needed here,” Hutchison wrote. “And we can’t possibly know what is needed here until we first close excess installations overseas,” she wrote.
Many lawmakers have expressed dissatisfaction with the realignments and closures, which in 2005 costed $35 billion, $14 million more than originally estimated costs, according to a Governmental Accountability Office report.