BRAC to the Future

The Air Force might be as loose on the Hill as it is with its nukes and contract awards.

DoD is delving into whether or not Our Boys in Blue “lobbied” members of Congress, pegging the Gasp-O-Meter inside the Pentagon.

The issue: Real estate. Money. Power. Relevance. The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list to be exact. It appears the Air Force was not pleased with the latest round of closings and joint-basing moves. But BRAC is binding — that is of course unless you can get a senator or two to pass legislation to override the process. Brilliant! Except someone would have to actively lobby lawmakers, which poses a problem for public servants (unless you’re the Air Force).

Senate heavyweights Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye, favorite sons of Alaska and Hawaii, respectively, recently sponsored such BRAC-skirting legislation. As reported, the move would allow a service secretary or head of a “federal agency to delay or veto a decision by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission on ‘joint basing.’ ” In a letter to Defense Secretary (and occasional superhero) Robert M. Gates, a suspicious-but-straight-talkin’ Arizona Sen. John McCain asked, “What gives?”

Some say there is a thin line between informing and lobbying, though when the subject is already law (like BRAC), there is little doubt. Inouye’s office has said it wants the Pentagon to slow down and think about what it’s doing regarding base closures and realignments. (Hickam Air Force Base in his home state of Hawaii wouldn’t have anything to do with his position, would it?)

The Air Force is not alone in its alleged efforts to influence lawmakers. Other service zealots have run afoul the lobby issue. In 2002, Army officials worked a little too closely with the Hill in an attempt to save the already-dead big gun and bad idea Crusader. At least one Army official lost his job and the two-star legislative liaison was downgraded to a brigadier general. (Easier to control?) The job since has been returned to its major general splendor.

It is debatable how widespread concern over joint basing is. Maybe the strategic force is concerned (panicked) over relevance and is clinging to its real estate empire for security. Don’t know.

The Air Force is investigating the matter.

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