WARNER ROBINS -- The chances appear to be rising that a proposal for a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission will not make it through Congress.
Eighth District U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, put it more bluntly.
“I don’t think it has any chance of making it through the House Armed Services Committee,” he said Friday in a telephone interview from Washington.
That would effectively kill it, said Scott, a Republican whose district includes Robins Air Force Base.
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The proposal for BRAC is a part of President Obama’s defense budget. Obama could still veto the budget Congress approves if it does not include the BRAC proposal, but Scott said ultimately he does not believe there will be a new BRAC.
“This is an election year, and I hope voters will pay attention to this issue,” he said. “This president, while he has refused to propose any reductions to entitlement spending, he has proposed tremendous cuts to the military, and that is an issue with voters.”
When the president presents his defense budget to the House, it will first go to the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. Scott serves on the subcommittee, and he doesn’t believe the BRAC proposal will make it through there. Even if it does, he said, U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said BRAC will not be in the defense bill the committee will pass.
While Robins Air Force Base appears to be about as BRAC-safe as it has ever been, community leaders still don’t want to take the chance of it landing on the closure list if a BRAC commission is approved.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced intentions to include a BRAC recommendation in the budget, with one in 2013 and 2015. Some speculated Congress was unlikely to agree to two BRACs in two years but could approve one.
Scott said he is opposed to BRAC because he believes the military has been disproportionately hit in efforts to curb spending and control the deficit. The Department of Defense already is facing $487 billion in cuts over the next 10 years and could face another $500 billion starting in January, when sequestration would kick in. Sequestration refers to automatic cuts in a spending reduction agreement approved by Congress.
Scott voted against the bill that included the sequestration rule and said he is fighting its implementation.
He said he believes there will be bipartisan opposition to the BRAC recommendation. However, the Air Force Times quoted the top ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee expressing support.
“I don’t think there’s any question we are going to have to do base realignment,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. “I don’t see how any person looking at strategy and looking at the changes coming down could conclude otherwise.”
The story also quoted a defense analyst who said it’s most likely Congress will reject BRAC this year but will approve it in 2014.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.