Tester to Defense Dept.: Close overseas military bases, not facilities in the U.S.
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is telling the Defense Department that it can save taxpayers more money by closing outdated military bases overseas instead of domestic military facilities.
The Defense Department recently sought permission from Congress to realign or close military bases in the United States as part of an effort to save money. Tester says that not only can the department save more money by looking overseas, but refocusing military resources on modern threats like terrorism will also strengthen America's security.
“There are meaningful savings to be realized by closing or consolidating overseas bases and realigning those forces to existing installations and domestic locations,” Tester wrote Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. “We urge you to act immediately to close overseas bases.”
Tester also highlighted a recent government report which says taxpayers won't see savings from the last round of base closures, in 2005, for decades.
“Given our current fiscal situation, the [Defense Department] must achieve savings now, not in decades,” Tester wrote. “It will spare communities in the United States a devastating economic blow.”
Thousands of U.S. communities supply military facilities with goods and services, leading to close relationships between small towns and nearby bases.
Tester first asked the Defense Department in May to consider closing a number of Cold War-era military bases and installations on foreign soil – saving taxpayers billions of dollars. While urging no weakening of America’s national security posture, Tester’s letter to then-Defense Secretary Gates noted that the United States still operates 268 military installations in Germany and 124 in Japan.
Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) also signed Tester’s bipartisan letter to Secretary Panetta. The Senators’ letter is available below.
In December, Tester and Hutchison led the Senate in approving a measure that calls for an independent organization to review the military’s overseas basing needs and their associated costs. The organization's findings are expected to be released later this year.
Dear Secretary Panetta:
We commend you for your ongoing efforts to identify savings within the Department of Defense (DOD) but write to express our concern with your request in the Fiscal Year 2013 DoD budget for domestic Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) authority for calendar years 2013 and 2015. We urge you to pursue an alternative course -- to more closely examine reductions to our overseas military presence that could ultimately provide more meaningful savings in both the near and long-term.
We certainly recognize the ongoing efforts by DOD to decrease defense spending by $487 billion over the next five years but do not believe another costly round of domestic base closures will get us closer to that objective. As you know, the DOD just completed the largest and most costly BRAC in history. According to a November 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled, Estimated Costs Have Increased While Savings Estimates Have Decreased, the 2005 BRAC cost taxpayers approximately $34.9 billion over a six year period – an increase of almost 67 percent from the original cost estimates. Additionally, GAO determined the estimated savings associated with BRAC 2005 were overstated and will not be realized for decades. Given our current fiscal situation, the DOD does not have the luxury of time. It must achieve savings now, not in decades. And the billions required to implement an additional round of domestic closures and realignments is something we simply cannot support.
On the other hand, there are meaningful near-term savings to be realized by closing overseas bases and realigning those forces to existing installations and domestic locations. While we are encouraged that the Army is planning to de-activate the 170th Heavy Brigade Combat Team in the next fiscal year, we believe that more must be done to reduce the presence of United States forces overseas. For example, the Air Force currently maintains a fleet of 69 F-15s, 96 F-16s, 20 A-10s, 15 KC-135s, and 22 C-130s in Europe, and is only planning on inactivating one Germany based squadron of A-10s in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request. This translates into only 10 percent of the aircraft proposed for reduction in FY13 coming for Europe.
Furthermore, the Air Force has not stated its intent for any further significant aircraft reductions overseas in the Future Years Defense Program. We strongly disagree with any proposal that cuts a higher number of our military personnel and aircraft at home rather than in Europe. That is why we worked to include a provision in the recently enacted Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 that calls for an independent organization to review the military’s overseas basing needs and their associated costs as a first step toward closing some of these obsolete facilities.
To achieve true cost savings, to align our forces more consistently with our national security strategy, and to spare communities in the United States a devastating economic blow and subsequent unemployment a domestic BRAC would undoubtedly bring, we therefore urge you to act immediately to close overseas bases.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.
Jon Tester et al