Two Democrats and a Republican in the Senate sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today asking that overseas military bases be closed before domestic ones as the Pentagon faces serious belt-tightening.
Sens. John Tester (D-N.D.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) were responding to a Defense Department request to Congress to realign or close stateside bases to save money.
The senators urged Panetta to “pursue an alternative course” and look at “outdated” facilities abroad.
“We certainly recognize the ongoing efforts by DOD to decrease defense spending by $487 billion over the next five years but do not believe another costly round of domestic base closures will get us closer to that objective,” they wrote.
“We believe that more must be done to reduce the presence of United States forces overseas. …We strongly disagree with any proposal that cuts a higher number of our military personnel and aircraft at home rather than in Europe.”
The senators worked to include a provision in the 2012 Defense Authorization Act that would have an independent agency review overseas bases and recommend cost-cutting in those areas.
“To achieve true cost savings, to align our forces more consistently with our national security strategy, and to spare communities in the United States a devastating economic blow and subsequent unemployment a domestic BRAC would undoubtedly bring, we therefore urge you to act immediately to close overseas bases,” they wrote.
The U.S. has more than 81,000 active duty military personnel stationed abroad, according to the June 2011 personnel strengths report by the Pentagon.
Its 2011 Base Structure Report noted 611 Department of Defense sites overseas, with the majority in Germany, Japan and South Korea.