In March 2015, the Pentagon asked Congress to establish a new Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) commission. It would be the fifth time since 1988 that a significant number of domestic military facilities were shuttered. In New York State alone, 32 bases have been closed down in the previous rounds, including major facilities like the Brooklyn Navy Station, Griffiss Air Force Base and Stewart Air Force Base. In Massachusetts, 19 bases have been closed to date,including Fort Devens, and Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod. BRAC proponents cite significant savings to the Pentagon budget, even after the 2005 BRAC shutdowns and realignments cost $35.1 billion, with a 67 percent cost over-run.
New York and Massachusetts are two states that have, for the most part, willingly gone along with the base closings, oblivious to the deep economic consequences to many communities that were effectively wiped out by the removal of the military facilities. In New York, one of the prime targets of the 2017 push for further base closures is Fort Drum in Jefferson County, home of the 10th Mountain Division. Local businesses and citizens groups are already mobilized to prevent the shutdown, and some impressive statistics buttress their case. It is estimated that the shutdown of Fort Drum would result in a loss of $1.6 billion from the local economy, the loss of 20,000 residents, a full 1/3 of the population of Jefferson County. One large school district in the county would lose 70 percent of its student body.
The same story is to be heard all over the country. What's more, at the same time that the domestic base closings are proceeding, the U.S. military footprint abroad is expanding. According to American University professor David Vine, there are presently 800 American military bases abroad, in 70 countries, with an annual cost of $160-200 billion, including American theaters of combat–Iraq and Afghanistan. Recent Pentagon studies of the need to devise a "third offset strategy" to address the increased vulnerabilities of American military bases around the globe raise further questions about the viability of the current military posture.
If the domestic economic consequences of the closing of military facilities that are sometimes the largest employers in areas of the country, already beset by departures of industry for cheaper offshore locations, are not taken into account by Pentagon bean counters looking to reduce the DOD budget, it is a fools errand at best. The result is real human suffering in distressed parts of the country that have proudly housed America's fighting men and women for decades and, in some cases, for centuries.
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