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Group of Senators Urge Deficit Panel to Scrutinize Overseas Milcon

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  • October 20, 2011
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A bipartisan group of six senators has asked the congressional deficit reduction committee to include deep cuts in spending on overseas military construction projects, citing the lack of critical analysis provided by the Pentagon on the military’s requirements in Europe, South Korea and Guam.

Significantly reducing such spending would have “minimal negative impact on our nation’s readiness or ability to efficiently respond to emerging threats,” according to the Oct. 18 letter from Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Mark Begich (D-Ark.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The lawmakers cite multiple reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlighting incomplete estimates of the cost to support planned changes in the nation’s overseas posture. For example, GAO concluded that DOD’s failure to complete its master plan for the relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam may lead to budget requests for projects without assurances the funds are needed, they said.

The letter also questions the wisdom of investing in overseas infrastructure as a way to further the nation’s partnerships with NATO allies, pointing out that the approach contradicts with the strategy of relying on host-nation facilities called for in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. And in some cases, retaining a significant presence overseas prevents the military from taking advantage of the investments made in domestic installations to accommodate returning brigades.

“We believe that significant savings can be achieved by dramatically reducing our overseas military presence, halting associated overseas military construction and returning those forces to installations with adequate existing infrastructure in place in the United States,” the senators stated.

On Wednesday, Tester and Hutchison introduced a bill that would create a federal commission to consider closing outdated overseas military bases. The eight-member commission would submit a report and recommendations to the president and Congress that would include a proposed overseas basing strategy for current and future missions, taking into account “heightened fiscal constraints.”

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