Taylor: Base Closures "Bone-Headed"

Friday, May 13, 2005
Congressman Gene Taylor declared Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's list of recommended base realignments and closures as "yet another bone-headed decision."

"Back in February 2001, Rumsfeld announced his intention to hold a round of base closures. February 2001 was a whole different world than the one we're in now," said Taylor. "On September 11th, 2001, we were attacked. Since then, we've gone to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We've declared a global war on terrorism. We're closing bases abroad and bringing home thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. But, Rumsfeld is hell-bent on closing our bases, and he seems to ignore long-term considerations for our nation. How he can think that closing 33 major bases is a smart move right now is beyond me."

Taylor, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, cited Rumsfeld's past missteps, saying, "Rumsfeld sent our troops into war without body armor. He hemmed and hawed on up-armoring our military vehicles. He continues to drag his feet on providing our troops with IED-jamming technology and training. Not once has he accepted responsibility and admitted his mistakes."

"These days Congress seems to be in the business of fixing Rumsfeld's errors in judgment. His FY2006 defense budget requested only four ships for the Navy. I don't know whether he's getting bad advice, or he's indifferent to the decline in our Navy's fleet. The reality is that ships are a necessary component of our national security. Luckily, just this week, an Armed Services panel was able to correct his failure and add three ships to the total defense budget."

"With the help of my colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee, we've also been able to correct the body armor situation. We're well on the way to getting the vehicle armor problem fixed, and we're working day and night to get our troops the training and technology for IED jammers. Now, it looks like we'll have to go to work to minimize the impact of today's decision and clean up another Rumsfeld mistake."

"As I've said time and time again, closing bases is a short-sighted, ill-advised, and stupid thing to do. After September 2001, Rumsfeld should have backed down and retracted his plans for this round of BRAC. But he's stubborn, and on this issue, he's just plain wrong."

Taylor has opposed the 2005 round of base realignment and closure (BRAC) since the President requested the authority for closures in his FY2002 budget. The House of Representatives refused to allow BRAC in its version of the budget. However, under intense pressure from Rumsfeld and the White House, including the threat of a veto on the FY2002 defense budget, the Senate allowed for the current 2005 round of BRAC.

Taylor sponsored an amendment to the FY2004 Defense Authorization bill that would have repealed the 2005 BRAC round. The amendment passed the House of Representatives, but during negotiations, the Senate stripped the provision from the final version.

During debate on the FY2005 Defense Authorization bill, Taylor advocated delaying BRAC by two years. Again, the Senate balked under pressure from the White House and additional threats to veto funding for the military.

The Department of Defense's recommendations for the 2005 BRAC include shutting down Naval Station Pascagoula. The closing of Pascagoula will cost South Mississippi 963 jobs, including the loss of 844 military billets.

The list also includes changes to the mission at Keesler's 81st Medical Group by eliminating inpatient services at Keesler Medical Center and providing only out-patient services and an ambulatory surgery center. This realignment will cost 402 jobs.

The Human Resources Support Center Southeast based at Stennis Space Center also made the BRAC list, cutting 148 jobs.

If all BRAC recommendations for the Fourth District of Mississippi are approved, the impact is a loss of 1567 military and civilian jobs.

Now that the BRAC list has been released, the BRAC Commission, headed by former Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Tony Principi, will review the recommendations. The review will include public hearings and investigations to validate the decisions made by the Defense Department. By federal law, the BRAC Commission must submit its final recommendations to the President by September 8th, 2005.

The President then can pursue one of two options before a September 23rd, 2005 deadline. He can approve the list and forward it to Congress for their consideration, or he can reject the recommendations and send it back to the Commission for changes.

After the President approves the final list and sends it to Congress, Congress has 45 days to reject the BRAC list. Whether or not Congress takes action to approve or disapprove the list, the BRAC recommendations take effect at the end of that 45-day period.

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