Senators subpoena base closing documents

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., argue that the information is needed for local hearings.

Two senators issued a subpoena Tuesday for Pentagon documents relating to the base realignment and closure process.

Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the chairwoman and ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, threatened to subpoena documents late last month after the Pentagon delayed the public release of some BRAC papers.

Defense officials subsequently allowed lawmakers and congressional staffers to view classified documents in a secure location and released a limited cache of documents to the public. Collins and Lieberman said Tuesday, however, that the available documents are insufficient.

The Pentagon has proposed closing 33 major facilities nationwide, realigning 29 others, and closing or realigning hundreds of smaller military locations. The recommendations have been sent to the nine-member BRAC commission, and that group is scheduled to pass its recommendations on to President Bush by Sept. 8. The president and Congress are required to accept or reject the closures and realignments in their entirety.

Collins and Lieberman said the delayed release of key documents is preventing communities from defending their bases when the BRAC commission holds field hearings.

"[Defense] department officials informed us that they are in the process of declassifying additional information that was previously made available only in classified form, which is of no use in public hearings," the senators said in a joint statement. "While we were hopeful that this release of information was a sign that the department is finally complying with our request as well as federal law, the reality is that BRAC field hearings are quickly approaching. Yet, communities that support bases still do not have access to much of the vital information they need to prepare for these important hearings."

Collins and Lieberman said the Pentagon has "failed to comply with its statutory obligations" and called on Defense officials to make the documents public "immediately".

Pentagon officials have maintained that they cannot yet release all the information because of the large quantity of sensitive or classified material. Officials did not respond directly to the subpoena Wednesday.

"We are committed to ensuring that the commission, Congress and the public have access to necessary information," said Glenn Flood, a Pentagon spokesman. "We have put a lot of information out there, and we will continue to put out more."