Saturday, August 14, 2010

U.S Looks at Closing U.S. Air Force Bases Overseas

"We are looking at [if we can afford overseas bases]," said a board member who agreed to talk with Air Force Times on background.

Three months ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the Pentagon's military and civilian leaders to find $102 billion in savings over the next five years - roughly 3.4 percent of the Pentagon's requested appropriations - and shift the money to the war-fighting effort.

Gates' predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, wanted to close more than a third of the bases overseas and move 170,000 service members and their families back to the U.S.

Air Force Special Operations Command considered moving its 352nd Special Operations Group at RAF Mildenhall, England, and 353rd Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Base, Japan, to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., said Lt. Gen. Mike Wooley, former AFSOC commander.

Today, support is building in Congress to close installations in Europe and Asia.

A bipartisan group of four congressmen sponsored the task force, which found the U.S. could save $80 billion if it reduced its military presence in Europe and Asia by a third.

Members of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, mostly Washington defense analysts, testified at a July 20 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on their findings, compiled in a report titled "Debt, Deficits, and Defense: A Way Forward."

"We continue to try to get a clear picture from the department of the actual number of overseas military bases we have, as well the strategic rationale for each location," said Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass, the subcommittee chairman. "Time after time, we see opportunities for increased efficiency, less waste and better use of taxpayer money."

Under the task force's proposal, about 50,000 service members would go.

The Air Force would cut one fighter wing and 10,000 airmen, according to the report. The task force also recommended eliminating one Army Brigade Combat Team from Europe and pulling back 7,000 Marines and 9,000 sailors stationed overseas.

"Our allies can afford to defend themselves. The Cold War is over," said Benjamin Friedman, who served on the task force. "Time has come for all our allies to carry the burden of their defense."

full article here

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