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Milcon Budget Will Be Scrutinized, Says Subcommittee Chair

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  • March 17, 2011
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From the outset of Thursday’s hearing by the Senate Armed Services’ Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, Chair Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) made it clear that every item in the Pentagon’s military construction budget request for fiscal 2012 will require a rigorous justification given the nation’s renewed emphasis on cutting the federal deficit.

“I do not believe there is anything the department is doing that we cannot do better, and I do not believe that there is any part of the budget that can be off limits as we look for savings. I will be looking at every area of this subcommittee’s jurisdiction as we attempt to cut duplicative projects and programs, increase management efficiencies, and reduce waste,” McCaskill said during her opening statement.

To underscore her point, she added: “The subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on the secretary’s efficiencies initiatives for later this month. As far as I am concerned, however, every hearing that we hold will be an efficiencies hearing.”

Before finishing her opening statement, McCaskill listed a number of concerns, starting with DOD’s effort to spend more than $10 billion to prepare Guam for the arrival of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa. Others included the request for a new $1.2 billion medical center at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and a $50 million fitness center at Naval Base Coronado, Calif.

After providing Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment, an opportunity to explain the rationale for the costly fitness center, McCaskill reminded the witnesses, “We are going to look carefully at the budget.” Every item will need to be justified, she said.

Another of the chairman’s “pet peeves” is temporary structures, an expenditure she views as a strategy to avoid obtaining congressional authorization for a new military construction project. Spending on temporary structures is “a very bad habit” and an area where the services have “wasted a lot of money,” McCaskill said.

She left the witnesses with a question they could respond to later: “Do any of you know of a relocatable that has been relocated?”

Visit the Armed Services Committee’s website to read the statements from the witnesses from DOD and the three services.

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