Report raises questions about realignment of overseas bases

The Bush administration's proposal to realign military bases abroad raises a number of oversight issues for Congress, including how much it will cost, whether it will improve or impede deployment flexibility, and how it will affect the planned closing of domestic military bases, according to a new report.

President Bush announced a plan in August to significantly alter the posture of U.S. overseas military basing. The proposal would transfer up to 70,000 U.S. troops and about 100,000 family members and civilians from Europe and Asia back to the United States within six to eight years.

"The issue for Congress is whether to approve, modify or reject the Bush administration's proposal," according to a Congressional Research Service report obtained by the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

"Budget and oversight decisions that Congress makes on this issue could have significant political and diplomatic implications," the report adds. "Decisions could also significantly affect U.S. military capabilities, [Defense Department] funding requirements, and the upcoming 2005 round of the base realignment and closure process."

The report outlines issues that Congress should consider in reviewing the administration's proposal, such as deployment flexibility, costs, the 2005 BRAC round, impact on Army personnel, effects on relations with allies, and the need for new legal agreements.

"What effect would implementing the administration's proposal have on the ability of U.S. forces to respond to potential contingencies in various parts of the world?" the report asks.

"Would transferring 70,000 troops from Europe and Asia to the continental United States reduce the need for closing domestic U.S. military bases?" the report adds. "Is DoD, in identifying candidate domestic bases to be closed or realigned under BRAC, adequately taking into account the potential effect on domestic base capacity requirements of transferring these troops back to the United States?"

The report also raises questions about the impact of realignment on the Army's recruitment and retention rates.

The assessment highlights testimony given to Congress and the Commission on Review of Overseas Military Facility Structure in recent months concerning the proposed realignment. The commission is expected to issue a report in March 2005.

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