New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) focused on the Defense Department’s plans for reducing its infrastructure in the event Congress rejects its latest request for additional base closures, during Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for Robert Work for deputy defense secretary.
During the Armed Services Committee hearing, Ayotte asked the nominee to clarify remarks Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel offered Monday during a preview of the department’s five-year spending plan. After noting that lawmakers rejected DOD’s BRAC requests in each of the last two years, Hagel said that “if Congress continues to block these requests even as they slash the overall budget, we will have to consider every tool at our disposal to reduce infrastructure.”
Ayotte, ranking member of the committee’s readiness panel, pressed Work to commit the department to gaining permission from Congress before closing bases. Work said Hagel “believes that there are some authorities the department can use” to close bases, reported Seacoast Online. He added that he would investigate the situation further and report back to the committee if he is confirmed.
“I take that as a lack of commitment and that troubles me because I believe that Congress should be in a position to approve BRAC,” Ayotte said.
It is “not for the Department of Defense to undertake this on its own initiative without the full approval of Congress,” she added. Ayotte, an ardent supporter of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, opposed the department’s BRAC request in each of the last two years.