Pentagon review could conflict with base closing panel

Members of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission Wednesday expressed concern that decisions made during a separate Pentagon review of the military's force structure, plans and capabilities could render their base-closing work obsolete.

The Defense Department is working on the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review, which it will send to Congress next February along with the fiscal 2007 defense budget request. But the commission must submit its list of recommended base closings to the White House in September, long before the Pentagon completes its work on the quadrennial review.

Commissioner Samuel Skinner, a former Transportation secretary, said the schedule "seems to be a little like the tail wagging the dog." And Commission Chairman Anthony Principi asked top Pentagon officials whether the QDR ultimately will supersede the commission's findings.

To prevent a disconnect between the two reviews, Principi called on the Pentagon to keep the commission updated on key decisions made over the course of the sweeping quadrennial review and to respond promptly to all information requests. The Defense Department was slow to reply to previous BRAC commissions' requests for background material and other information during base-closing rounds in the 1990s, Principi said.

Ryan Henry, the Pentagon's undersecretary for defense policy, assured commissioners that he would keep them updated on the QDR findings over the next several months by holding periodic classified hearings. He also noted that the QDR team will take the BRAC commission's findings into account as they compile the massive review.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon's Global Posture Review, a look at the military's presence overseas, will also help to inform the QDR and BRAC processes. All three reviews, which are under way simultaneously, are designed to be complementary to one another.

Wednesday's hearing was the third in two days for the commission, which officially got to work during a swearing-in ceremony Tuesday.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to send his list of base closing and realignment recommendations to lawmakers sometime next week. The commission then will analyze the department's findings before submitting its own list to President Bush Sept. 8.

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