The Interesting Politics And Military Policy Behind The Base Closing List This Morning
After months of the usual careful and close-to-the-vest high powered analysis and decisionmaking that is his trademark (Friday morning snark), Rummy released the long-anticipated next round of suggested military base closings this morning. And the list says interesting things about red state politics and our future military plans.
First, several things jump out at you. The Pentagon is telling us this morning that these domestic bases are a relic of the Cold War, and aren’t needed any more in the war on terror. This raises several questions, among them:
·The alleged savings from these closures is $48.8 billion over 20 years, or an average of $2.44 billion a year in a $2 trillion annual federal budget. This is chump change in the overall Pentagon budget.
·Worse yet, these savings are illusory because they will be offset by the Pentagon’s accelerated forward base building program overseas, which is likely to gobble up if not dwarf whatever savings are being claimed with the domestic base closings. And these forward base construction and support costs are buried not in the main Pentagon budget each year, but rather in the supplemental appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan like the one Congress approved yesterday for over $80 billion. So Rummy is deceiving Congress into thinking that this base closing process is saving any money when in fact over the last two supplemental appropriations alone Rummy has spent a large part of these alleged 20-year savings.
As for politics, there seem to be a lot of red state military bases on Rummy’s list for closure over the next twenty years, and a lot of GOP senators who will be explaining to their constituents why they couldn’t protect home-state jobs from the decisions of a red-state GOP president. Among the GOP senators who are in trouble at home with the release of this list are:
·John Thune of South Dakota, who campaigned last year against Tom Daschle by claiming he could save the state’s largest employer, Ellsworth Air Force base, from cuts. He didn’t; Rummy put it and the South Dakota economy on the chopping block this morning. In fact, between the closure of Ellsworth and the net negative effect from CAFTA, the Bush Administration will be killing off the South Dakota economy over the coming years, and there aren't enough Citibank jobs handling credit cards left in the state to make up for this or what will soon be outsourced anyway to India and elsewhere;
·Trent Lott, who saw Rummy chop the integral Pascagoula Naval Station today;
·Pete Domenici, who saw Rummy chop Cannon Air Force base today;
·Saxby Chambliss, who saw Rummy chop Fort Gillem and Fort McPherson, as well as the Atlanta Naval Air Station today;
·Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, who both saw Rummy cut the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard today;
·Rick Santorum, who saw Rummy cut the Willow Grove Naval Air Station today;
·George Allen, who saw Rummy cut Fort Moore today.
Oh, and what did Joe Lieberman get for his wet-kiss with Bush at the State of the Union? He got to see Rummy target the New London Submarine Base for closure today. Tell us Joe if you get a “Dear John” Letter from the White House, OK?
Also, in looking at the list, the vast majority of the facilities that Rummy is slating for closure are Reserve and National Guard units of all branches. Given the load that our Guardsmen and Reservists are carrying in combat in our current military operations overseas now, how exactly does Rummy expect this to continue in future years if he is gutting the Reserve and Guardsmen infrastructure here at home? How does he plan to do this especially when recruiting is down?
Unless of course it won’t be the Reservists and Guardsmen who carry the load in the future, but rather regular Army and Marine units at forward bases, beefed up through a draft.