This week the Obama administration formally submitted its proposed defense budget to Congress. Many details had already been made public in a series of carefully timed disclosures, starting with the president's announcement of a new American defense strategy in early January. The big news is that the Pentagon seeks to reduce future spending by approximately $259 billion over the next five years. As a result, significant cuts in military personnel and hardware are in store. The army, for instance, is projected to lose over seventy thousand soldiers. The air force plans to reduce by nearly ten thousand airmen and about three hundred aircraft. If the sequestration provisions of the 2011 Budget Control Act come into effect next January, even more draconian cuts could be in the offing.
Perhaps no aspect of the proposed reductions has raised more public alarm than the potential implications for military installations across the country. On January 26, Secretary of Defense Panetta announced that "the President will request the Congress to authorize use of the base realignment and closure process—so-called BRAC process—with the goal of identifying additional savings and implementing them as soon as possible." Almost immediately, several members of Congress vowed to fight any such request, declaring it would be "dead on arrival." This sharply negative reaction is hardly surprising. No legislator relishes the thought of a base and its associated jobs being cut in his or her district, particularly during a period of high unemployment.