Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Missouri Democrat isn’t buying the need for more base closures

Proposal for a second BRAC round already is unpopular on Capitol Hill, though Defense has said it can move forward regardless.

The chairwoman of a key Senate panel said Thursday that she would not approve the Obama administration’s request for a second round of military base closures.

The Base Closure and Realignment Commission process has had a negative impact on communities during previous rounds, including those in Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s home state of Missouri.

“I will not support a process that is callous or casual, or one that is rushed before we fully comprehend whether the traumatic task is clearly in the best interests of the American taxpayer and our national security,” McCaskill, chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, said during a hearing this week, as reported by The Washington Post.

Defense Department officials told House lawmakers earlier this month that the Pentagon can proceed with base closures without lawmakers’ approval, but through a process more detrimental to local communities. The Obama BRAC proposal already is unpopular with lawmakers.

Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment, told a panel of skeptical House Armed Services Committee members that base closures in the 1990s better represent the savings potential of BRAC than the most recent round in 2005.

The 1988 and 1991 closures, however, were harder than necessary on the affected communities, she added. The policy at the time made the process of rebuilding disposed-of property “slow, bureaucratic and penny-pinching,” she said.

The Pentagon must go back to that process if Congress does not approve a new round under the more community-friendly 2005 rules, according to Robyn.

“One reason we want to avoid that approach is that, if [Defense] acts outside of the BRAC process, the department is severely constrained in what it can do to help local communities,” Robyn said.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the name of Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment.