A plan to close and reconfigure hundreds of military bases is sailing through Congress, on track to take effect next month in a blow to communities hoping for an eleventh-hour reprieve.
Certain members of both the House and Senate would like to see the BRAC plan rejected.
Congressional critics and many local officials fear the impact of base closures on their area economies - and on their political futures. They argue that the United States should not restructure military bases while the U.S. military is engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But BRAC opponents are unlikely to win because…
…the Pentagon, the White House and GOP congressional leaders dismiss that argument. They contend that eliminating extra space will free up money that could be used instead to improve the United States' fighting capabilities.
In other words, Donald Rumsfeld's going to get his way.
The concept of closing unnecessary military bases makes economic sense until you consider that we'll be deciding which bases to close before we decide what kind of military we'll need to put in the bases we have left. The composition of our future force will be determined by the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review. The QDR is currently underway, but won't be complete until long after the BRAC issue has been decided.
This seems to be putting the cart before the horse, unless we theorize that the QDR is, in reality, a lot of sound and fury that will arrive at whatever conclusion Rummy wants it to. And that conclusion would likely be a force that fits the base structure Rummy wants to keep.
It gets better. Theoretically, the force structure determined by the QDR is driven by the National Defense Strategy, which was last updated in September of 2002, well before the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation quagmire. A reasonable person might conclude that a new security strategy needs to be crafted before we decide what kind of force we need to carry out the strategy and what bases we'll need to support that force.
But we're not talking about a reasonable person. We're talking about Donald Rumsfeld.
The chief architect of the Iraq disaster is the very same guy people in the administration are talking about putting in charge of FEMA's functions and running the show in case we need to establish martial law to enforce a bird flu pandemic quarantine.
And now, Rummy wants authority and funding for the DOD to encroach even further on the State Department's territory. From United Press International:
The Washington Post reports Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants the authority to work with other countries to develop, equip and train their troops. He's asking for $750 million to get started.
Congress isn't biting on it just yet, as key members fear giving traditional State Department functions over to the U.S. military.
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and hasn't jumped on board the idea.
An aide said Lugar is concerned about the switch from State to Defense departments.
Lugar seems to be one of those "loyal" Republicans who hasn't caught on yet that the function of conducting foreign policy migrated to the Department of Defense about five years ago. And unlike the way things were in the first Bush term, now there's nobody left at State to complain about it.
The plan has recently gotten support from the State Department.
Originally opposed by former Secretary Colin Powell, Secretary Condoleezza Rice has called for congressional approval.
Way to take one for the team, Condi!
I recently abandoned an Orwell/Heller-styled futuristic political novel in the middle of the third draft. Every time I think I've come up with something totally outrageous for the American government to pull in the year 2020, I turn around and discover that the Bush administration has already pulled it.
In one chapter, the figurehead president (Little Brother, heh-heh) orders Congress, the Judiciary, and the rest of the Cabinet to be incorportated under the "Ministry of War on Evil." (Little Brother has his mom write him a memo saying it's okay for him to do that.) Then Little Brother appoints the War Minister as Vice President.
A pretty fair piece of satire, in my humble opinion. But heck, by the time I can get the book written and published, it won't be futuristic fiction.
It will be yesterday's news.