A scheduled new round of military base closures in 2005 remains on track after surviving a Senate challenge. The Senate defeated a proposal from Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to cancel the 2005 group of Dept. of Defense base shutdowns. They sought to block the round through an amendment to the fiscal 2004 DOD authorization bill, but their proposal was defeated on June 4 on a 53-42. vote.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (Photo courtesy of the office of Sen. Byron Dorgan)

The Senate then approved the overall DOD measure on a voice vote.

There were four closure rounds since 1988 through 1995, which have resulted in closing or "realigning" 152 major posts and shutdowns or realignments of 235 smaller facilities. The program also has led to seven billion dollars in environmental cleanup work at facilities on the closure lists and another seven billion dollars in construction at installations to which personnel from closed bases were transferred.

Despite billions in up-front costs, DOD says the net savings of the four rounds was $16.7 billion, through fiscal 2001, plus annual recurring savings of $6.6 billion after that.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (Photo courtesy of Dept. of Defense/ R.D. Ward)

In a report last year, DOD said it feels it still has 20% to 25% too many facilities. In 2001, Congress authorized a new group of closures for 2005.

But Dorgan argued, "Almost everything has changed since 9/11," including the U.S. campaign against terrorists and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which lend uncertainty to where DOD should locate its forces. Moreover, noting the weak U.S. economy, Dorgan contends that even the possibility that domestic posts might be on a shutdown list would slow investment in those locations. "The timing [of the new round] could not be worse," said Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who supported the Dorgan amendment.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had told Congress he would recommend a veto of the 2004 DOD measure if the Dorgan amendment were attached to it.