Friday, September 09, 2005

Ford Releases Letter Calling on the President to Suspend Closures of Military Bases

Yesterday, the Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) Commission delivered its final report that will affect more than 800 Army, Navy and Air Force installations across the nation. Included in the report is a recommendation that Tennessee's 118th Air Lift Wing in Nashville be realigned and its eight C-130 aircraft be distributed to Air National Guard bases in Illinois and Kentucky.

The report could not come at a more inopportune time. In the last two weeks, the men and women of the 118th have served their nation, state and fellow Americans well by flying more than 75 missions to assist the relief efforts in neighboring states devastated by Hurricane Katrina. All told, the 118th has flown 94 hours, delivering 132 tons of supplies and materiel and transporting 142 patients to safety. The men and women of the 118th Air Lift Wing are part of the 1,232 members of the Tennessee Air and Army National Guard who have been deployed to assist in recovery efforts.

As you well know, the BRAC Commission's report also comes as almost 140,000 American troops serving in Iraq and 17,000 American troops serving in Afghanistan. To date, almost 1,900 American soldiers have given their lives in Iraq and more than 200 have paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. General Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told Congress that these troop deployments are increasingly straining the ability of the U.S. military to respond effectively to other threats.

Finally, the entire BRAC process has occurred in advance of the completion of the Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR. As a result, the BRAC commissioners, by their own admission, were forced to evaluate the Pentagon's recommended base closings and force realignments against a strategic plan that was last updated in 2001 and that predated the nation's global war on terror. As the Commission notes in its report:

[I]t would have been far preferable for BRAC 2005 to have occurred after the new QDR so that the strategic underpinnings for nearly irreversible infrastructure and capacity changes could have been informed by QDR's output, rather than BRAC providing input to the QDR (emphasis in original).

I find it difficult to reconcile closing or realigning 28 major military installations and cutting 29,000 military and civilian jobs soon after our highest ranking military officer informed Congress that our military is overstretched. It is even more perplexing given the Commission's acknowledgement that it was not given the strategic underpinning necessary to adequately evaluate how the base closings would affect our military readiness.

I ask you to suspend implementation of the BRAC Commission's recommendations until we better understand the impact that these closures will have on our ability to respond to new and emerging threats - both man-made and natural. Specifically, I ask that you suspend the base closings while we are undertaking major military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere across the globe.

Closing valuable units like the 118th Airlift Wing in Nashville would not only hurt our nation's military operations abroad, it would also hurt our ability to recover from natural disasters and leave us vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Mr. President, I continue to believe that the United States has vital national security interests in the Middle East and that it is critical to support the emergence of freedom and liberty in that part of the globe. But I also believe we must do everything in our power to remain secure at home. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina makes clear that we need to keep all resources available to be able to respond quickly and effectively when duty calls. To do anything less would be a disservice to the people of this nation.

As always, you and your family, especially the First Lady, are in my prayers.


Harold Ford