Virginia officials are preparing to defend the state’s military installations from cutbacks, after the Obama administration announced that it would seek to trim the Pentagon's budget for the first time in more than a decade.
In addition to cutting the size of the Army and the Marine Corps, the Defense Department also plans to ask Congress for the authority close a new round of bases under the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission process. Virginia will be watching closely, given that the state plays host to a number of bases, along with many defense contractors and the Pentagon itself.
In a statement Thursday, Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) said the administration’s plan was “not entirely unexpected.”
“We will work closely with the Department of Defense to illustrate Virginia’s commitment to the military — active, reserve and veteran forces — which has led the Commonwealth to be a strategic location for military bases for many years,” McDonnell said, “and allowed Virginia to experience an overall growth in military when previous BRAC decisions have shifted more personnel to installations such as Fort Lee, Fort Belvoir and Marine Corps Base Quantico.”
As McDonnell noted, the last BRAC round actually benefitted Virginia in some ways, adding to Belvoir as well as other, more controversial sites such as the Mark Center in Alexandria. But the state also lost some capacity more recently, most notably with the closure of U.S. Joint Forces Command in Hampton Roads.
In 2010, the state formed a special military commission, chaired by former congressman Tom Davis (R-Va.), to study possible cuts in Virginia and plan a strategy for dealing with them.
Sen. Mark Warner (D) noted that the last BRAC round occurred in 2005, when he was governor, and that he and other state officials worked together to prevent Virginia Beach’s Naval Air Station Oceana from being closed.
“Both with Oceana and JFCOM, we created an effective model that we can use in any future discussions about base closings and realignments,” Warner said in a statement. “With this experience and framework, I am confident that Virginia will continue to lead the way in providing our country with an effective and efficient military that ensures our national defense.”
Warner also said that while every area of government should be susceptible to budget cuts, “before we authorize another round of base closings and realignments, we should first determine if there is excess capacity not just here but also at our overseas installations, especially in Europe.”