DISAPPROVING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE DEFENSE BASE CLOSURE AND REALIGNMENT COMMISSION -- (House of Representatives - October 27, 2005)
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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of H.J. Res. 65, a resolution of disapproval of the 2005 base closure and realignment recommendations.
I am proud that my state delegation--commonly referred to back home as ``Team Connecticut''--was successful in saving Sub Base New London from closure. Together our congressional delegation, Governor Rell, members of the New London community and military experts put together an airtight case for the survival of the base. As a result, the commission realized what Connecticut knew all along: That Sub Base New London is not only a critical asset to our State, but a vital part of our current and future national security.
The members of the 2005 BRAC Commission were given an extraordinary responsibility and performed their duties in a thoughtful and responsible manner. However, they were given the job of examining a flawed proposal based more on achieving the bottom line then ensuring the security of our Nation. If passed, H.J. Res. 65 would put an end to the current BRAC process--one that I have long believed to be the wrong process at the wrong time for our Nation.
Since 2002, I have voted in the Armed Services Committee and on the floor to either repeal or delay BRAC 2005 because I have felt all along that the process had serious flaws. With 150,000 of our men and women in uniform serving overseas in the Middle East, continued operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and failures to meet recruiting goals, now is not the time to close or realign major portions of our military infrastructure. We should not be closing and consolidating bases and infrastructure here in the States now, when in another two years we may be bringing a significant amount of troops and equipment back from Europe and other forward deployed locations and we would have to spend more money again to reopen or recreate space for them. We should not be closing or realigning before the completion of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which projects the threats our nation will face and guides our force structure for the next two decades. The Commission simply and rightly called conducting BRAC before the completion of the QDR ``inverse'' and ``illogical.'' This is simply the wrong time for BRAC.
The final report before us for consideration includes a wide-ranging realignment of the Air National Guard that was completed without the input or consultation of our State Governors and Adjutants General. Rather than conducting an inclusive process--as in the case of the Army National Guard recommendations--the Pentagon chose to craft their Air Force proposal by shutting out the very people that both the law and common sense dictate need to be included in changes to State Guard units.
As a result the final Air Force recommendations disproportionately impact the Air National Guard, with 37 of the final 42 Air Force recommendations making changes to Air Guard units in States across the Nation. Governors and Adjutants General widely opposed this plan, citing the impact on recruiting and retention of Guard members, lack of consultation, and reduced availability of personnel for vital State emergency response and homeland security functions. Although the Commission ultimately approved a scaled down version of the Pentagon's Air National Guard plan crafted in the final days of their work, the final BRAC report states that the lack of coordination between the Pentagon, Governors and Adjutants General ``unnecessarily cost the Commission additional time and resources and damaged the previously exemplary relationship between the Air National Guard and the Air Force.''
This misguided recommendation hits home in my district and State, where the 103rd Fighter Wing at Bradley Air National Guard base is slated to lose their A-10 Warthogs--leaving Connecticut as the only State in the Nation without an air national guard flying mission. In presenting our case to the Commission, our message was simple: The Pentagon not only used flawed data that did not take into account many of the unique capabilities of Bradley, but failed to consult our Governor in major changes to our State's militia. While Adjutant General Thaddeus Martin, the staff of the 103rd and the State delegation made a strong case for Bradley, the base was unfortunately included in the final realignment plan. The men and women of the ``Flying Yankees,'' and indeed all the members of the Air National Guard, deserve better than an ad-hoc transformation plan that has the potential to seriously impact the future of these citizen soldiers and their mission.
In late August 2005, I joined Connecticut Governor Rell, Attorney General Blumenthal and Senators Dodd and Lieberman in filing suit to prevent the realignment of the Bradley Air National Guard base. We were forced to take this action because the law is simple and clear: the Bradley A-10s cannot be removed without the consent of our Governor. Regardless of the result of today's vote, Connecticut has the law on its side and I am confident that we will secure the future of the ``Flying Yankees.''
One of our most important duties is to provide for the defense of our Nation. We should not be closing and realigning our bases at a time when our nation is engaged in the Middle East and faces unprecedented threats from abroad. Rejecting BRAC 2005 is simply the right thing to do for our men and women in uniform, the security of our nation, and for the future of our Air National Guard. I urge my colleagues to support H.J. Res. 65.
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