A Little Thrift

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The Department of Defense has proposed closing 33 major military bases across the country, a move it says will save $49 billion over the next 20 years. Next: watch roughly 33 congressman scramble to save their constituents' jobs and their own political lives.

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  1. The thing that’s most bizarre to me about these base closures is that it seems like they should get easier with each round because there would be fewer and fewer representatives with bases in their districts.

  2. watch roughly 33 congressman scramble to save their constituents’ jobs and their own political lives.

    Many more than that. For example, expect to see every one of Connecticut’s reps try to save the Groton sub base, and every one of NH’s and Maine’s try to save the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

    The good news is that they only have to be seen to make an effort, not to succeed. The military base closing reports and commission add up to one fo the best pieces of self-binding policymaking Congress ever came up with. By setting it up so that at least 270 + 51 can vote for each round of closing without committing political suicide, and the minority can claim credit for putting up a big public fight without much danger that they’ll win, a lot of rent-seeking and pork-barrelling gets excluded.

  3. The NY Times noted the other day that the effect of this plan is to shift thousands of personnel from the Northeast to the South and West. No surprise there, given that that’s where most of the military money has been going for decades, but… given the population distribution in the US and the threats we may face in the near future from terrorists, does it really make sense to shift even more military away from such a large population center?

  4. given the population distribution in the US and the threats we may face in the near future from terrorists, does it really make sense to shift even more military away from such a large population center?

    Well sure — they’ll be much safer there, away from potential terrorist targets. Don’t you want our troops to be safe?

  5. I am always suspicious of a partisan political motive in every thing that come out of Washington.

    THUSLY: Has anyone matched up the proposed base closing with upcoming political fights in 2006 and 2008? Is this a plan by the “party in power” to further decimate the Democratic ranks as impotent?

    ADDITIONALLY: The Democrats took a lot of heat last year for base closing in the early 90’s ochestrated by a Republican administration.

    Remember the original “The Longest Yard”? Burt Reynold spirals a ball right into another players franks & beans. In the subsequent huddle he says “worked once…ought to work again.” It did.

    Is Bush II stealing from daddy’s playbook?

    To me, this seems like an obvious question. But I have NOT found a sufficient response so far in any media, mainstream or otherwise.

  6. Ben Falk, are you new to Reason or have I just not been paying attention?

  7. Don’t you want our troops to be safe?

    Good point, how silly of me.

  8. Rhywun,

    I agree with some of your statement — moving personnel farther away from the largest portion of population and leadership isn’t a good defense tactic.

    I’d like to go a step farther – they’re now closing “redundant” bases and combining forces into one base. All B-1’s will now be housed in the same base. Is this a good idea strategically?

    ATTENTION ENEMIES: ALL OF OUR STRATEGIC BOMBERS ARE NOW AT THE SAME BASE. Please plan accordingly.

  9. I have to disagree with madpad. John Thune’s senate seat is going to go back to the Democrats because he won his race by assuing South Dokotans that his closeness with the president would save their air base. Now that base is being closed.

    From what I’ve seen, there may be room to attack the recommendations on the merits, but I don’t see any obvious political bias.

  10. Grant, Rhywun, I’m not sure how the Groton Sub Base is going to protect CT from terrorists.

  11. I have to disagree with madpad.

    tut tut, Joe…I haven’t even asserted anything yet – other than the fact that the Democrats let the Republicans beat them up about the last round.

    I’m just asking some questions here. IMHO, anything coming out of the beltway is rarely done for the same reasons that appear on the label.

    The questions seem obvious to my Phillip K. Dick reasoning, but then I’m admittedly cynical.

    Nonetheless, thanks for reminding about Thune. I forgot about that one.

  12. As G2mil.com has documented over the last couple years, the USN has been adamant in its budget requests that nuclear attack submarines are absolutely essential to the war on terror. Don’t ask how, but trust the admirals, they are!

  13. I read the list of *base* closings and those closest to me are nothing more than strip mall suites used for recruiting offices.

  14. I’m not sure how the Groton Sub Base is going to protect CT from terrorists.

    I suppose terrorists could attack by water…

  15. Saving cash, eh? Local news stations last night reported that Virginia is already looking for hundreds of millions of dollars–if not billions–to extend the DC subway system to a VA fort that will actually grow due to closures elsewhere. They are already asking the Feds for the cash.

    So now, instead of spending money on bases you don’t need, the govt. will spend money to build an underground train to a different base that you don’t need.

    Whack-a-mole!

  16. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has been beyond useless for over 20 years. The fact that it has escaped so many base closing rounds is a testament to the political power that can be wielded when two (and sometimes three, including MA) state’s interests are aligned.

    I selfishly hope that this pops the housing bubble in the NH/ME seacoast real estate market, allowing me to buy a house at a reasonable price.

  17. I love the Coast Guard station at Lake Havasu City Az. Old Man McCulloch must have given away a lot of congressional chainsaws to get that little perk.

    The sight of a full-on Coast Guard Cutter in the channel under the London Bridge is breathtaking. And expensive.

    Interesting too, in that Havasu is just a land locked lake (say that five times fast) in the middle of the desert while Lake Mead or Lake Mojave, which actually are National Recreation Areas and could marginally justify a federal presence, have no Coast Guard presence.

  18. TWC,

    Lake Havasu has a Coast Guard station?!? Is that in case the students from Arizona decide to launch an attack on the spring break students from Arizona State?

  19. I’m not sure if TWC is joking or not. It sounds so implausible.

  20. It’s real. Wow.

  21. and it’s run by the coach from major league!

  22. It’s not exactly the Coast Guard.

    What is the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary ?

    Since its creation by Congress in 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has served as the civilian, non-military component of the Coast Guard. Today, the 33,000 volunteer men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary are active on the waterways and classrooms in over 2,000 cities and towns across the nation. Each year, Auxiliarists (folks just like you) save almost 500 lives, assist some 15,000 boaters in distress, conduct more than 150,000 courtesy safety examinations of recreational vessels, and teach over 500,000 students in boating and water safety courses. The results of these efforts save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

    Lake Havasu Flotilla 9-2 Lake Havasu City, Arizona is the American home of the London Bridge. Our flotilla was chartered in 1967 and we have a very active group of Auxiliarists involved in the many activities of the organization. We are always looking for folks who would be interested in joining and putting their talents to work for the benefit of the boating public. It’s not all work and no play….we have been known to take moonlight dinner cruises down the lake. For more information on our organization or membership in the Auxiliary, click on the “membership” button at the top of the page.”

    Emphasis added.

    There presumably is not one at those other location because the locals have not organized one.

  23. Whoops,

    “What is the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary ?

  24. given the population distribution in the US and the threats we may face in the near future from terrorists, does it really make sense to shift even more military away from such a large population center?

    Modern military bases are no longer “forts,” as in a place to be secure from danger. It’s much more realistic to visualize them as targets which are dangerous to live close to.

  25. given the population distribution in the US and the threats we may face in the near future from terrorists, does it really make sense to shift even more military away from such a large population center?

    Most active military bases are for training only, actual defense is done in by active air guard units and the coast guard those are not moving out of the NE.

  26. I’d like to go a step farther – they’re now closing “redundant” bases and combining forces into one base. All B-1’s will now be housed in the same base. Is this a good idea strategically?

    The B-1 is a big expensive piece of shit. The smart people in the Air Force did not want its $243 million a piece airframe in the 1970’s and actually canceled the program. Unfortunately once Reagan gave the services more money than they needed in the 1980’s it got put back on the agenda. It performed poorly in the first gulf war and the air force is currently going from 93 units to 60 which could all be housed at one place.

    For warfare today the AC-130 and the A-10 (which the airforce never wanted) are much much cheaper and much more useful. More information at;
    http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/b-1.htm

  27. Dave stole my thunder – I was about to comment that housing all of the B1s at one base may be a clever ploy to encourage terrorists to wipe out the entire fleet at one stroke, thereby saving the Air Force the millions of dollars they spend annually to maintain those white elephants. For that matter, I wouldn’t mind if they took out the B2s as well – for all of the hoopla concerning their Stealth characteristics, they haven’t demonstrated that they’re much more capable or cost-effective than conventional bombers.

    I wish the DoD luck on the next round of base closings – I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the precursor to more deployment of assets overseas (i.e. Iraq).

  28. Jimmy Carter was right about the B1.

    They should just scrap the “no fixed wing aircraft” rule and give the A-10s to the Army. “Beat in, Colonel, Warrent Officer Smith here is taking your job!”

  29. Lot of experts on military aircraft on Reason all of a sudden. Of course, the B-1 dropped about 40% of all the ordnance in Afghanistan…

    http://usmilitary.about.com/library/milinfo/milarticles/blb-1b.htm

    The reality is that the US needs a new bomber that is capable of carrying a big payload – similar to the payload of the venerable and still lethal B-52.

    As for Jimmy Carter being right about air power decisions, well, the guy was nuclear guy for the Navy. Go figure he knows next to nothing about air power.

    AC-130s and A-10s are also great weapons platforms for their intended purpose. But face it, close air support is not the only mission air power is responsible for.

    Saying that we should scrap the Air Force, use only A-10s and AC-130s can only be considered sensible if we assume that we will never see another air-to-air dogfight, never face surface-air-missile batteries, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

  30. Saying that we should scrap the Air Force, use only A-10s and AC-130s can only be considered sensible if we assume that we will never see another air-to-air dogfight, never face surface-air-missile batteries, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

    Sorry Rob, I don’t really have the time to elaborate on how much the B-1 sucks so I will be brief (In short I have yet to see a case in which a swing design actually made an aircraft more effective, just much more expenisve, maybe you can find one). I agree that strategic bombing is an important mission in fact it is the Air Force’s number one mission and the reason why it is its own service.

    I was not aware of the 40% figure for OEF, however I will tell you that the weapon that the Taliban fears the most is the AC 130 which can hang out for over two hours in one place blowing shit away. The B-52 has been around for over 50 years and will still be around for many more I think this in and of itself proves that the B-1 and B-2 were not very effective. After all its not as though we kept the F-4 after the F-15 and F-16 came out.

    The reason I mention the AC 130 and the A-10 is that the Air Force consistently underfunds the CAS mission. For the price of one B-2 we could could have several of each and in the non-linear battlefields that we have in the war on terror CAS is much more important than strategic bombing because things change constantly.

    After thinking about it the 40% on strategic payload in OEF is misleading. Afghanistan has very very few strategic targets to bomb, after 9/11 Rumsfield himself said there are many more targets in Iraq. The B-1 was not used at all in the first gulf war, and I am not sure about OIF but I doubt it was used much there either.

    So yeah rob I agree we don’t need to abandon strategic bombing and we need to keep air to air superiority. But that doesn’t mean that the B-1 isn’t a piece of shit. I am no military expert, but I am military pilot and I think that gives me some credit when commenting on this…

  31. Swing design= swing wing design

  32. Dave – I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you’ve never actually flown a B-1. You fly choppers for the Army, right? (I’d bet my Quizno’s sub on it…)

    I think you and I agree on most of this – I’m not a big fan of the B-1, but it has done pretty well in the last few go-rounds of combat. Nevertheless, the B-1 will be phased out before the B-52. (Of course, so will just about everything. The B-52 is exceptional.)

    Even if the B-1 were the best bomber the world had ever seen, its bad reputation would count for more than its performance at this point.

    Anyway, my point wasn’t to defend the B-1, just to point out that it’s not as bad as everyone makes out. (Not to mention that I have a kneejerk reaction to people who cite Jimmy Carter as an expert on military issues… and it’s compounded when the citation comes from joe.)

    CAS is important, but I think we can agree, it’s not the end-all be-all mission. CAS is always a more imporant mission once air superiority is firmly established. But until air superiority is established, there really ought not to be boots on the ground. That’s why there were roughly 100 days of air attacks prior to the ground assault to free Kuwait (Schwarzkopf’s famous left hook, etc).

    That air campaign is something the Army doesn’t talk about much, and it defined Gulf I combat operations as the short period of time they were actually operating on the ground, unsurprisingly.

    PS – I don’t think the 40% number is misleading – it’s a % of ordnance dropped, not strategic bombing missions.

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