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DEFENSE COMMUNITIES 360

Panel’s Top Republican Questions Off-Base Projects

  • March 20, 2011
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One week into her tenure as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services’ Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, freshman Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) made it clear where she stands on the question of DOD lending a helping hand to communities searching for ways to support mission growth.

“I believe this committee must lead the way in stopping the use of defense funds to support special interests for medical research, local roads and other public infrastructure. While these projects may be worthwhile, nondefense projects should be funded by other federal, state or local agencies and should go through the proper committees of jurisdiction in the Senate,” Ayotte stated during her opening statement at Thursday’s hearing on the Pentagon’s fiscal 2012 defense authorization request for military construction programs.

When it came time to question the DOD witnesses, Ayotte raised the matter again, asking Dorothy Robyn, the Pentagon’s deputy undersecretary for installations and environment, whether it made sense for earmarks funding infrastructure projects beyond an installation’s perimeter to be funneled through the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). The senator listed three examples — $300 million for medical transportation infrastructure in the National Capital Region, $250 million for repairs to local community schools and $45 million for reimbursement to local towns — for the witness to consider.

Although, it wasn’t clear exactly why she had been put on the spot to justify those projects, Robyn did her best to defend OEA’s role.

“OEA is a wonderful office. It was created by Robert McNamara in the 1960s,” she started before mentioning the critical support the office provided in jumpstarting the successful redevelopment of New Hampshire’s Pease Air Force Base after it landed on the BRAC list.

But Ayotte’s mind was already made up — DOD should not be responsible for paying for civilian needs.

“We want to make sure that the proper committees oversee these issues and also that the funds that you are given are used for your priorities based on what this committee decides and what the overall Armed Services Committee decides,” she concluded.

A webcast of the March 17 hearing is available on the Armed Services Committee’s website.

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