Senator Jon Tester is calling on the Defense Department to update him on the implementation of his bipartisan law requiring the department to examine the nation's overseas military bases.
Tester worked with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) to pass legislation to save taxpayers money and strengthen military readiness by reassessing America's overseas military installations. The Tester-Hutchison law calls for the Defense Department to appoint an independent commission to review the military's overseas basing needs and their associated costs as a first step toward closing facilities that are no longer needed.
Tester says the department needs to follow his law and inform Congress of its progress.
"We request an update on the status of this assessment and strongly urge you to expedite the completion of this report," Tester and Hutchison wrote Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. "The assessment would provide a much-needed look at the current state of our overseas military facilities and determine the feasibility of closing or realigning those facilities."
Tester first asked the Defense Department last May to consider closing a number of Cold War-era military bases and installations on foreign soil -- saving taxpayers billions of dollars. In his letter to then-Defense Secretary Gates, Tester noted that the United States still operates 268 military installations in Germany and 124 in Japan.
"Instead of calling for another costly round of domestic base closures, we believe the Department of Defense should take necessary steps to capture the significant savings that can be achieved by dramatically reducing our overseas military presence," Tester wrote.
Tester and Hutchison teamed up to find savings in military spending in October. The pair noted that closing unnecessary overseas bases will allow the U.S. to strengthen its military by focusing on current national security objectives. Additionally, they believe that decisions about overseas bases haven't kept pace with the military's advanced capabilities.
Tester's and Hutchison's letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is available below.
April 5, 2012
The Honorable Leon Panetta
Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Panetta:
We commend you for your ongoing efforts to identify savings within the Department of Defense. As we have communicated to you on numerous occasions, we believe that more closely examining reductions to our overseas military presence could ultimately provide significant savings in both the near and long-term. Today, we write to bring your attention to a provision of the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 112-81) that calls for the Defense Department to commission an independent assessment of the overseas basing presence of United States forces. We request an update on the status of this assessment and strongly urge you to expedite the completion of this report.
We are fully mindful of the difficulties associated with decreasing defense spending by $487 billion over the next ten years. Undoubtedly, there are many tough choices to be made. But instead of calling for another costly round of domestic base closures, we believe the Department of Defense should take necessary steps to capture the significant savings that can be achieved by dramatically reducing our overseas military presence, halting associated overseas military construction, and returning those forces and assets to installations in the United States.
The independent assessment called for in this year's Defense Authorization law could provide the roadmap toward these savings. To complement the ongoing efforts of the Defense Department and Congress to spend taxpayer money more wisely, the assessment would provide a much-needed look at the current state of our overseas military facilities and training bases, and determine the feasibility and advisability of closing or realigning those facilities. In light of the current fiscal constraints under which we are operating, such an assessment is critical if we are to make informed decisions that are in our best national security interests and that make sense fiscally.
Again, we strongly urge the Defense Department to expedite the completion of this assessment. We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.
Jon Tester and Kay Bailey Hutchison