U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christina M. Styer/Released

Poll: It's Time for Congress to Agree to Close Military Bases

A National Journal poll of security insiders says Congress needs to get on board with military base closures, but agrees that it probably won't. By Sara Sorcher

It's high time for Congress to agree to the Pentagon's request to close military bases, a whopping 91 percent of National Journal's National Security Insiders said.

Lawmakers, even as they search for ways to cut spending, have rebuffed the Defense Department's requests to close military installations it no longer needs as the military downsizes after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—to the dismay of the pool of national security experts. "Enough already," one Insider said.

"Congress rails about waste, until the Pentagon comes up with legitimate savings that require congressional statesmanship," another Insider said. "At which point, Congress goes silent."

The Pentagon wants to use the money on other crucial priorities as the defense budget shrinks, while lawmakers have objected to the upfront costs of closing bases. One Insider acknowledged base closings "often take time to show savings." Still, the Insider said, especially in this era of fiscal austerity, "every little bit helps in the out years."

Insiders say lawmakers' real concern is the political price they will pay for potential job losses in their districts. Even so, one Insider said, "bases should be located where there exists military necessity, not where there is political convenience." U.S. military bases, another Insider added, "are not intended to serve as economic pork to congressional districts. There are better ways to stimulate the economy than playing politics with our military basing."

By refusing the Pentagon's calls to close facilities, one Insider said, Congress is breaking faith with the troops. "It is unfair to take away retirement pay, and health care benefits that service members have earned over a career, while continuing to operate bases no longer needed and maintain weapon systems no longer needed because Congress refuses to act responsibly," one Insider said. "That is punishing the people who have sacrificed the most for the safety of our nation to protect reelection opportunities for members."

Several Insiders were upfront about the probability of Congress actually caving. "They won't," one Insider quipped.

A tiny 9 percent minority said Congress should not listen to the Pentagon's requests to close excess facilities—if only because it's their right. "As much as the Pentagon may like to ignore it when it disagrees, the Congress represents the people and has the power of the purse," one Insider said. "It's up to them to decide how assets should ultimately be allocated. It may seem illogical to the Pentagon. But no one elected them."

Click here to see the full results of the poll.