Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey speak about defense budget cuts on Thursday. Panetta is already facing opposition on a proposal to undertake additional rounds of base closures. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Opposition is already building to the Pentagon's proposal to undertake additional rounds of base closures.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a press conference Thursday that President Obama will seek authority to conduct another round of base closures as part of the proposed 2013 budget. Following Panetta's announcement, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, on Thursday told editors of Gannett Government Media Corp., which publishes Federal Times, that the Defense Department would likely ask to conduct two Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) rounds.
The most recent BRAC round of 2005 wrapped up last September. That round affected more than 800 installations and 123,000 personnel and cost about $35 billion, according to a 2010 Government Accountability Office report.
Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said in a joint statement that there was "bipartisan opposition" to another round of base closures and that the proposal will be "dead on arrival" in Congress.
John Gage, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement it was premature to consider another round of base closures until Congress addresses scheduled cuts in agency budgets.
He said previous rounds have not produced the savings that were promised.
"We should not repeat the mistakes of some of the recent rounds of BRAC where the savings are far in the out years while we spend enormous sums upfront so that we simply increase the national debt, disrupt lives of our nation's hardworking civilians and military, and in some cases destroy the livelihood of communities in the name of savings that never truly materialize," Gage said in a statement.
But Panetta said that despite what he called the weaknesses and failings of the BRAC process it was the most effective way to reduce DoD's real-estate footprint.
"The best approach to reducing that infrastructure politically on Capitol Hill is to work it through the BRAC process," Panetta said.