WASHINGTON, DC– Senator Susan Collins, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Ranking Member Senator Joseph Lieberman have contacted President Bush to urge him to direct the Department of Defense to immediately release documents related to the Base Realignment and Closure list. The Senators both represent states that were hard hit by DoD’s recent base closure recommendations. While federal law requires that DoD make available documents related to installations that are included on the closure and realignment list, to date, DoD has withheld most of this information.
“The Department’s failure to disclose this information undermines public confidence in the integrity of the Department’s decision-making process that produces these recommendations,” wrote the Senators in a letter dated May 27. The Senators also argued that without such information, the BRAC process becomes unfair, providing an unfair disadvantage to bases that will be visited by BRAC commissioners early in the process. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the Brunswick Naval Air Station, and the U.S. Submarine Base, New London, for example, are slated to be visited by two to four commissioners next week. “This is crucial information and it is vital that the Pentagon release it immediately,” added Senators Collins and Lieberman. The text of Collins and Lieberman’s letter to President Bush is as follows: Dear Mr. President: We are writing to register our deep concern over the Department of Defense’s failure to comply with its statutory obligation to disclose to Congress the information underlying its recent recommendations for military base closures and realignments. The Department’s failure to disclose this information undermines public confidence in the integrity of the Department’s decision-making process that produced these recommendations. The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990 as amended states expressly that Congress be provided the information required to undertake a substantive review of the Department’s recommendations. To facilitate that review, the Act states clearly that the Department shall disclose to Congress “all information used by the Secretary to prepare the recommendations.” The Department’s failure to disclose this information obstructs Congress’s ability to conduct a review. The Act also requires the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission to assess the Department’s recommendations and to submit its findings and conclusions to you by September 8, 2005. The Commission could not begin reviewing the Department’s recommendations until the Department released them on May 13, 2005. Following their release, the Commission initiated its own site visits and hearings to gather additional data for its report. The Department’s failure to disclose the supporting information contemporaneously with releasing its recommendations discriminates against the sites of the Commission’s initial visits and hearings and prevents Members of Congress representing those sites from preparing adequately for these visits and hearings. The Department was put on notice of this disclosure obligation when the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002 instituted the current round of base closures and realignments. Accordingly, the Department has no excuse for its ongoing delay in disclosing the information. The base closure and realignment process is intended to be open and transparent. The integrity of the process depends upon these qualities. The absence of these qualities due to the Department’s failure to disclose information upon which its recommendations are made undermines our confidence in the process and undoubtedly raises concerns within the public at large. We urge you to direct the Department to comply fully and immediately with the disclosure requirements of the law. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.