Base-closing commission gets underway with briefing on threats

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission heard broad testimony Tuesday from top intelligence officials on current and future threats to the United States, a first step in a four-month process that ultimately will decide the shape of domestic defense infrastructure.

"This is all part of the process to absorb information, get threat assessments [and understand] their impact on the force structure," BRAC Chairman Anthony Principi said after the hearing. He added that the testimony did not lead to any conclusions about which bases should close and which ones the military needs.

The open hearing was the panel's second on Tuesday; another session took place Wednesday morning. David Gordon, chairman of the national intelligence committee at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, led a panel of witnesses that gave the commission a synopsis of both state and non-state threats.

None of the members of the panel, which also included representatives from the State Department and the Defense Intelligence Agency, could offer commissioners specific information on which capabilities and installations the military will need to combat threats for the next 15 to 20 years.

However, the panel members stressed that unconventional tactics such as sabotage, terrorism, information attacks and weapons of mass destruction used by terrorists, insurgents and other non-state enemies might alter how the military fights its battles.

"They don't want to fight the American way of war," Gordon said. "Enemies try to level the playing field so we're unable to fight the way we want to fight."

International terrorism is continuing to grow and is becoming increasingly decentralized, with groups and individuals popping up around the world, Gordon said.

At the same time, the military must remain prepared to fight state enemies, with North Korea and Iran possibly posing serious threats to the United States and its allies for the next decade or longer. China and India, two rising political and military powers in Asia, also are areas to watch, Gordon said.

The nation's response to global threats "affects the U.S. military in dramatic ways and affects the work of this commission," said retired Army Gen. James Hill, a BRAC commissioner. In particular, he said, the military might need to change the way it trains troops, increasing police and security forces.

The commission will meet again today to hear testimony from top Defense officials on a host of ongoing Pentagon studies, including the sweeping Quadrennial Defense Review and the Global Posture Review.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to send his list of recommended base closings and realignments to Capitol Hill next week. The commission must analyze Rumsfeld's list and submit its own recommendations to the White House by Sept. 8.

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