DURBIN AND OBAMA URGE BUSH TO REJECT BASE CLOSURE AND REALIGNMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) today sent a letter to President Bush, urging him to reject the flawed recommendations made by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission and to return the report to the Commission for revisions.
"The Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act clearly states that the number-one criterion for BRAC decisions is military value," Durbin and Obama wrote. "Unfortunately, the report that has been approved by the BRAC Commission failed to abide by that crucial standard. We urge you to return the report to the Commission for further revision."
In their letter to the President, Durbin and Obama cited several examples affecting Illinois military installations where the BRAC Commission appears to have deviated from the "military value" standard set by law. As a result, the Commission moved to send jobs and aircraft from Illinois bases to out-of-state military installations that are ranked with a lower military value.
"We believe that the report submitted to you by the Department of Defense is deeply flawed," wrote Durbin and Obama. "The inconsistencies, contradictions and outright violations of BRAC criteria outlined above demonstrate the need for further revision. In its current form, this is not a report that advances our national interest. We urge you to return it to the Commission to correct these and other fundamental errors."
Base Realignment and Closure is the congressionally-authorized procedure for the closure of U.S. military installations. The Department of Defense makes its recommendations to a bipartisan BRAC Commission appointed by Congressional leaders and the President.
Last week, the BRAC commission completed their recommendations and sent them to the President for his review. The BRAC Commission is required to make its final recommendations to Congress on closures and realignments by October of this year. The Commission's recommendations must be voted down or accepted as a whole by the House and the Senate within 45 days.
The text of Durbin and Obama's letter appears below:
September 1, 2005
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act clearly states that the number one criterion for BRAC decisions is military value. Unfortunately, the report that has been approved by the BRAC Commission failed to abide by that crucial standard. The set of recommendations approved by the Commission substantially deviates from the criteria established by law. As such, we urge you to return the report to the Commission for further revision.
Specifically, we write to you today about a set of recommendations involving Springfield's Capital Airport and Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois. As part of a larger vote involving Air National Guard facilities, the Commission elected to send the 15 F-16s of the Illinois Air Guard 183d Fighter Wing to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Capital Airport, home of the 183d, has a higher military value than Fort Wayne; this fact alone marks a deviation from BRAC criteria. In its evaluation, the Department of Defense alleged that the downgrading of military value would be justified by superior recruiting in Indiana. The evidence that members of the community and congressional delegation presented to the BRAC Commission clearly exposed the fallaciousness of this justification: the 183d enjoys outstanding recruiting in Illinois and is over 100 percent critically manned. Furthermore, as the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania recently ruled, the Defense Department should have obtained the consent of the Governor before seeking to deactivate a flying wing.
Decisions involving Rock Island Arsenal also defy the central criterion of military value and the paramount objective of enhancing national security through the more effective allocation of military resources. The Defense Financial and Accounting Services at Rock Island was the top-ranked unit in the country. But the Commission decided to transfer this agency from Rock Island to a substantially inferior facility, according to Department of Defense data, while defending the retention of three lower-ranked sites, allegedly on the basis of enhanced military value combined with economic impact. Shutting down a top-ranked facility (which had ample physical room and local capacity to grow) while maintaining and expanding the 12th, 17th, and 19th ranked units flies in the face of all logic. Moreover, the economic impact of this move on the communities in and around Rock Island also outweighs the prospective impact at two of the three lower-ranked recipient sites. Similarly, the decision to move the Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command from Rock Island to Michigan will fail to yield promised dividends: with projected costs exceeding $150 million, the Department of Defense will never see returns on this investment.
We believe that the report submitted to you by the Department of Defense is deeply flawed. The inconsistencies, contradictions, and outright violations of BRAC criteria outlined above demonstrate the need for further revision. In its current form, this is not a report that advances our national interest. We urge you to return it to the Commission to correct these and other fundamental errors.