President Obama is backtracking from his campaign promise that “I don’t think now is the time” for another round of military base closures across the country.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday presented the $526 billion defense budget request for fiscal 2014, which explicitly calls for shutting down facilities in a process called Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).
“BRAC is the only effective means of achieving infrastructure consolidation,” the Pentagon said. “This BRAC round adds $2.4 billion to costs in the next five years but would eventually save substantial sums. The actual closing of bases would involve a multiyear process that would not start until 2016, after the economy is projected to have more fully recovered.”
During the campaign, Mr. Obama sang a different tune as he campaigned in the swing state of Virginia, with its array of Navy, Air Force and Army bases that employ thousands.
“Do you support another BRAC closing bases, possibly hurting Hampton Roads?” Mr. Obama was asked on July 15 in a radio interview.
Said Mr. Obama: “You know, I don’t think now is the time for BRAC. We just went through some base closings, and the strategy that we have does not call for that.”
In fact, his proposed fiscal 2013 budget at that time did call for a new BRAC. Then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and the Joint Chiefs of Staff had testified to Congress in the winter of 2012 that they desperately needed to close excess properties.
But neither the Republican-controlled House nor the Democrat-led Senate agreed. They refused to authorize another BRAC.
A few months later, Mr. Obama was in Virginia telling voters BRAC was not needed.
Rep. Randy Forbes, Virginia Republican, was astonished.
“Your statement is inconsistent with those from Secretary Panetta, other members of your administration and budget documentation that all requested another two rounds of Base Realignment and Closure,” Mr. Forbes wrote in a letter to the White House. “We would appreciate if you could confirm that the Administration at this time is no longer seeking to close additional military installations.”