Today's Los Angeles Times comments on Congressional action this week. -- Articles like this one show how prescient was Dwight David Eisenhower to label the military-industrial complex the military-industrial-Congressional complex in the early drafts of his famous 1961 parting message to the American people. -- Is it now too late to heed Eisenhower's words? Historian Chalmers Johnson concludes The Sorrows of Empire (Metropolitan Books, 2004) with these words: "There is one development that could conceivably stop this overreaching: the people could retake control of Congress, reform it along with the corrupted elections laws that have made it into a forum for special interests, turn it into a genuine assembly of democratic representatives, and cut off the supply of money to the Pentagon and the secret intelligence agencies. We have a strong civil society that could, in theory, overcome the entrenched interests of the armed forces and the military-industrial complex. At this late date, however, it is difficult to imagine how Congress, much like the Roman senate in the last days of the republic, could be brought back to life and cleansed of its endemic corruption. Failing such a reform, Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, the punisher of pride and hubris, waits impatiently for her meeting with us." ...
CONGRESS SET TO CLEAR WAY FOR MILITARY BASE CLOSINGS
By Richard Simon
Los Angeles Times
October 9, 2004
WASHINGTON -- Congress moved toward clearing the way Friday for the Pentagon to proceed with another round of controversial military base closings, averting an election-year showdown with President Bush over the issue. The decision neared as the House and Senate lurched toward the end of their session in the same way they began it -- with partisan rancor.
In the House, Democrats moved for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), a favorite Democratic target who received his second ethics rebuke in a week on Wednesday for his hardball political tactics. Their effort was shot down by the Republican majority.
The usually more decorous Senate was knotted up by year-end disputes that threatened to keep senators in the Capitol through the weekend.
The House neared approval of a $446-billion defense authorization bill that allows the Pentagon to move ahead with the closings and the Senate is expected to follow suit. A number of California bases are considered vulnerable.
The measure would also authorize an increase of 20,000 troops for the Army and 3,000 for the Marine Corps in an effort to ease the strain on a military with commitments across the globe. Army officials had argued against a permanent increase in troop strength, which they said could drain money from critical Pentagon programs.
"We say we support the troops. We put the bumper sticker on the back of our car. This is saying it loudly and clearly," said Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
While a large number of lawmakers from both parties sought to delay base closings, they were faced with a preelection Hobson's choice: vote against the bill because it let the base closings go ahead, or vote for it because it included body armor and a pay raise for the troops.
"I will not vote to allow a group of bureaucrats to shut down bases at a time when we're at war," said Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.). "This just doesn't make sense."
Pentagon officials have talked about shutting the equivalent of at least 100 of the nation's 425 bases, more than in the four previous rounds of base closures combined. The money saved would be used for modernizing the military, the Pentagon has said.
A recent report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that the military had 24% excess base structure.
California was hard hit by previous rounds of base closures. Of the 97 military facilities closed between 1988 and 1995, more than 20 were in California. But analysts say that might not soften the blow this time around because the military and its missions have changed so much over the intervening decade.
Among the California bases that could be vulnerable to closure or loss of some operations are Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station; the Barstow Marine Corps Logistics Base; the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, and the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, which faces encroachment from the surrounding community, said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a public policy group in Arlington, Va. California officials have also expressed concern that Beale Air Force Base, north of Sacramento, could be targeted.
"There's no question that California is going to lose some bases and lose some missions," Thompson said.
Some bases, such as the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, have powerful supporters. As a center for space-based intelligence, it is likely to be supported by the intelligence community and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
"Keeping the L.A. Air Force Base off the base closure list is a fight that our community has fought and won three times," Harman said Friday night. "Plans are well underway to win it a fourth time."
The Defense Department is scheduled to present its list of bases for closure by May 16 to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which will present its recommendations to the president by Sept. 8. If he accepts the list, the closures become law in 45 days unless Congress blocks them -- something Congress did not do in the first four rounds.
The House, with bipartisan support, voted earlier this year to delay the closings by two years. The Senate fell two votes short of taking a similar position.
Congressional negotiators stripped from the defense bill two provisions unrelated to defense that had been approved by the Senate: tougher fines for broadcasters for violations of indecency rules and a stronger federal hate crime law. Proponents of the measures said they would continue to try to win passage.
--Times staff writer John Hendren contributed to this report.