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The Base Realignment and Closure Commission: A Successful Strategy to Overcome Political Gridlock

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Carl von Clausewitz, the 19th century military theorist, warned that in warfare simple things are difficult. The same principle applies to efforts to close military bases in the post-Cold War era. The collapse of communism and disintegration of the Soviet Union left a diminished threat and precipitated a reduction in the size of the US armed forces. The military base structure designed to accommodate a much larger Cold War force could no longer be maintained, especially in a much constrained budget environment. There seemed to be a general consensus across the nation that base consolidation and closure could cut fat, without affecting the muscle of the armed forces. The situation seemed simple, the logic appeared abundantly clear. Yet, the executive and legislative branches of government were unable to achieve a mutually agreeable plan to close bases. This situation existed for several key reasons. First, under our Constitutional system of separate institutions sharing power, neither branch of government could close bases without approval from the other. Second, the executive branch opposed Congressional influence over their perceived Constitutional rights to manage the day-to-day operations of the armed forces. They also questioned Congressional innovations on this matter. Specifically, they were concerned that Congressmen would select bases to close based on parochial rather than national interests. Interestingly enough, Congress held the same view of the executive. Third, members of Congress were reluctant to act because closing a base in a Congressmans district or state would surely raise severe objections from their affected constituents Failure to oppose such an action would be a sure form of political suicide for the member of Congress Additionally, Congressional procedure provides great powers to individual members who could halt the whole system other a base closure issue.

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  • Administration and Management
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies

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