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BRAC doubts spreading

By Staff
May 20, 2004
Discontent seems to be emerging over the emotionally-charged issue of closing U.S. military bases and realigning American military strategy. The next round of BRAC, or base realignment and closure, is scheduled in 2005 and the Defense Department wants to get rid of about one-quarter of the bases on domestic soil.
But as the days on the calendar pass, more and more officials are voicing unhappiness with the process and schedule, and some of them are trying to take corrective action. That was the basis behind the latest effort by U.S. Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran to force a look at 721 American military installations overseas before closing bases at home. The effort failed by two votes in the Senate on Tuesday; three senators all of whom were said to support the Lott amendment were absent.
While both were related to a $422.2 billion defense authorization bill, Lott's amendment was different from a House-passed measure to delay BRAC by two years. Lott's amendment was essentially a modification of BRAC to first look at bases overseas and did not speak to delaying the process.
U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering have been vocal BRAC opponents in the House.
Lott's amendment made perfect sense and it is unfortunate that it did not pass. He suggested after the vote, however, that he is exploring other ways to deal with the question of whether the U.S. should maintain so many bases and so many troops on foreign soil.
We predict that more BRAC-related votes will come up in Congress and encourage the Mississippi delegation to continue playing a leadership role in protecting our bases.