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More Base Closures? Lawmakers Say Not Their Watch

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s proposal for another round of military base closures appears to be headed nowhere fast in both the Senate and House.

On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee endorsed a defense budget bill that stripped out the Pentagon’s proposal to begin exploring another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Late last month, the similar subcommittee in the House Armed Services Committee went even farther by adding language expressly prohibiting the Pentagon by even considering another BRAC round.

While not a guarantee, the committee’s strong opposition to another round of base closures greatly reduces the likelihood that Congress will grant the Pentagon’s request this year.

The Pentagon insists that there are too many bases for the new, smaller military envisioned in the coming years. And they say that closing bases – or reducing “infrastructure,” in bureaucratic speak – will be critical for the military to absorb reducing funding.

But base closures are never politically popular as lawmakers fight to defend jobs in their home states.

Both Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery and Brunswick Naval Air Station were on the list of bases recommended for closure during the last BRAC round in 2005. Portsmouth was eventually spared but Brunswick was not.

Although not officially named, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is sometimes mentioned as a possible target in another BRAC. The shipyard, which is located in the Maine-New Hampshire border, employs an estimated 4,700 civilian workers.

New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte – respectively, the chairwoman and top-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support – led the efforts to remove the BRAC language from the bill.

“This bill cuts wasteful spending and reinvests into vital training and defense maintenance, including a critical project at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, while also preventing a potentially costly BRAC round,” Shaheen, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The subcommittee vote came the say day that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told another Senate committee that another BRAC round was needed.

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