Nevada lawmakers vow to protect state’s military bases

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is seeking another round of base closures, a process that strikes fear in states and communities where military installations are located.

But given lawmakers’ reluctance to touch the political lightning rod, congressional authorization appears unlikely this year.

Nevada’s four military installations account for 53,000 jobs in the state, according to a military council created by Gov. Brian Sandoval. The mere suggestion that any of them could be closed is enough to get state lawmakers to take to the ramparts.

“Any effort to close these bases would not only mean job losses, but would have negative effects on our state that can’t be measured in dollars and cents on a spreadsheet in Washington, D.C.,” said Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev.

Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said, “Nevada’s military installations contribute greatly to our national security with unique mission specific capabilities. I will fight to ensure each of our bases stays open.”

Nevada’s Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto said that instead of realignments or closure, the state bases “must be equipped with the resources necessary to operate at full capacity.”

In his $4.1 trillion budget blueprint for 2018, Trump is asking Congress to authorize another round of Base Realignment and Closures, commonly called BRAC, to shave 20 percent of excess infrastructure capacity across all branches of the armed services.

The budget proposal says consolidating and eliminating unneeded military facilities could save up to $2 billion a year, from 2021 to 2027.

Last round of closures in 2005

The Pentagon has not conducted a BRAC round since 2005, when Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada’s Mineral County was listed for closure but spared due to the economic impact shuttering the depot would have had.

The economic and political pain of closing local bases in past rounds has left lawmakers reluctant to approve additional reductions. Congress has denied authority for all additional rounds sought by the Pentagon since 2013.

Pentagon officials argue that money saved from consolidations and elimination of facilities would provide funds for new weapons and equipment for military personnel.

In addition to Hawthorne, Nevada is home to Naval Air Station Fallon, Nellis AFB and Creech AFB.

Creech is the primary training, maintenance and operations base for unmanned aerial vehicles. Nellis has more Air Force squadrons than any other base. Fallon is is a Navy tactical air warfare training center.

While rank-and-file members of Congress have little appetite for closures, some leaders on military matters see wisdom in the move.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said Congress should act to streamline the military and reduce unneeded structures.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, has filed legislation that would authorize creation of an independent panel to review military installations to begin a new base closure process.

Contact Gary Martin at 202-662-7390 or Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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