WASHINGTON – Base closures won’t be on the table in 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted Monday, but added the Pentagon’s worldwide infrastructure would eventually have to come down.
“It is now clear that there will not be a round of BRAC authorized in 2013,” he said. “Frankly, this was no surprise.”
The Defense Department had called for new rounds of base closures in its proposed 2013 budget, but Panetta cited the stumbling U.S. economy as a reason action won’t be forthcoming. Powerful legislators quickly batted away the suggestion, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich. Overseas base closures, which don’t require the complex and politically fraught base realignment and closure process, should proceed before downsizing stateside, Levin said.
Previous BRAC rounds, including the last one in 2005, are now saving the department $8 billion annually, Panetta said in a speech to the Association of Defense Communities in Monterey, Calif. As the military gets smaller, the issue has to be faced, he said.
“Now may not be the time for BRAC as our economy recovers,” he said in his prepared remarks. “But sooner or later, one way or another, the Department is going to need to take a hard look at its basing infrastructure as we seek to reduce our overhead costs.”