House Blocks Attempt To Close Unused Military Bases In Defiance Of White House Wishes

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The House turned down an amendment Thursday that would have made it possible to close unused military bases, in a move directly contradicting Trump administration wishes.

The rejected Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) amendment, forwarded by GOP Rep. Tom McClintock, would have removed language from the National Defense Authorization Act that prohibits shutting down unused military bases.

The amendment was rejected by a 175-248 vote.

Unlike an attempt from Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, McClintock’s amendment would have only struck down language prohibiting closures, as opposed to overtly establishing and implementing a new BRAC process.

According to an assessment conducted by the Office of Management and Budget released Tuesday, the White House “strongly urges Congress to provide BRAC authorization as requested so that DOD can ensure it is not wasting scarce resources on unneeded infrastructure.”

Part of the reason for hesitation from members of Congress is because military bases provide strong benefits to local economies, which makes closing bases a politically unpopular venture.

The House Committee on Armed Services sent out a BRAC fact sheet Thursday arguing that “once you give up a base or capability, you may never get it back or it is incredibly expensive to replace.” The fact sheet also cited Defense Secretary James Mattis, who stated he is unsure about the quality of Pentagon BRAC assessments.

Current Department of Defense estimates place the amount that would be saved by shuttering unnecessary facilities at $2 billion a year by 2027. Moreover, the DOD believes that by 2019, it will have 20 percent excess capacity. Numerous think tanks, both right- and left-leaning, have stated that a new BRAC is essential.

“BRAC has proven to be a fair and efficient process for making the difficult but necessary decisions related to the configuration of our military’s infrastructure,” the letter signed by a coalition of think tanks stated. “In the absence of a BRAC, defense communities are hurting. Although members of Congress have blocked base closures with the intent of helping these communities, they are actually making the problem worse. The time to act is now. Congress should grant our military the authority to eliminate waste, and ensure that vital defense resources flow to where they are most needed.”

The last BRAC process took place in 2005, and annual defense bills since that year have blocked new BRACs.

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