Defense cuts, organizational restructuring, force reduction; scary words if you’re in one of the Texas towns whose economies are buttressed by the 124,000 active duty military personnel, thousands of reservists, and military employed civilians.
There are 30 some-odd military bases that dot the Texas landscape. And when it comes to actually closing the doors of any of those bases, you can imagine the politics of such a move. Congress can’t seem to agree on how, where, if or when to close bases. Now the Defense Department is threatening Congress that if they don’t act soon, the Pentagon will. It’s a story Andrew Tilghman, Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times, has been following. He says that it is within the Pentagon wants Congress to create a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRACC, to save money. A recent study showed that the Defense Department has 22 percent more space than it really needs.
“One of the things [the Defense Department] wants to do to cut costs is close some of those bases,” Tilghman says. “But that’s a very politically precarious thing to do, because everyone in Congress, all the lawmakers are concerned that their district is going to get hit and that the jobs at home are going to get hit, and it’s going to be a political issue for them.”
But there hasn’t been one of these BRACCs since 2005, and the Pentagon is getting impatient.
“Basically the Department has said this year, a little bit more aggressively than they have in the past, ‘Listen, by the letter of the law we can move ahead and do this on our own. And we might do that.'”
It wasn’t always like this, Tilghman explains. But when the draft ended, there was a “fundamental shift” to an all volunteer force, and a handful of bases closed or shrunk considerably.
“There was a sense – whether its true or not, I have no idea – but there was sense that some of those base closures were politically driven,” he says. “So with that in mind, after the end of the Cold War and they knew that they were going to have to draw down a little bit further, Congress stepped in to sort of ease the politics of it.”
So will the Pentagon actually make moves? Not likely, Tilghman says. At least not at the moment.
“I think there’s a lot of sabre rattling, actually. I do think that there’s a sense among people I’ve talked to here in Washington that, yes technically they could do this, but really what they want to do is sort of prod congress into actually doing a BRACC so they wouldn’t have to.”
This post was prepared for the web by Alexandra Hart.