Congressman Randy Forbes | Capitol Monitor
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Blitzkrieg BRAC

The following op-ed by Congressman Forbes was recently featured in a special defense report in The Hill newspaper. 

Only a weekend after members of Congress returned to their districts for August recess, the fiscal blitzkrieg on our military began. In the Pentagon, a small circle of individuals took the first step in their long-planned strategy.  With one hour until the media announcement, after it was already being reported in the news, a perfunctory call was placed to the affected congressional representatives. Sixty minutes later, the Secretary of Defense announced to a waiting press corps his unprecedented plan to shutter one of our nation’s ten military commands. With only his words as justification, he would reverse a 25-year course towards jointness, eliminate tens of thousands of jobs, reprogram millions of defense dollars, and transfer 1.1 million service members to another command.

The terminology is different, but make no mistake, the base realignment and closure process has begun again. The goal of this round of Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC) will be the same: the dismantling and closure of our military installations. But after straining and creaking under the crushing fiscal weight of a two-year social spending binge, the Department of Defense’s process will be far from familiar. Unlike the closure process set forth by statute and envisioned as fair and open, this process will be much different. Members of Congress should be warned that, left unchecked, they can expect a steady tide of security-dismantling moves. The new BRAC will be:

The new BRAC process will be politically calculated and timed for minimal input from installations, lawmakers, communities and stakeholders. As with the August recess announcement of the closure of U.S. Joint Forces Command, new closures will be timed and executed specifically to hamstring the ability of members and stakeholders to react.

The new base closure process will be unilateral.  Determinations will be made by a handful of advisers. No analysis, information or criteria will be provided before and only department-scrubbed talking points will be released afterward.

The new BRAC process will be bold. It will use legal alchemy to bypass the letter and spirit of the BRAC law. It will affect tens of thousands of people at a time, delivering devastating and wide-ranging blows to military communities and to our national security.

Just as the planning will be concealed, so, too, will the implementation of new BRAC decisions. To date, the Department of Defense refuses to release the original legal justifications for their unprecedented move. They refuse requested witnesses for oversight hearings. And they unabashedly admit they have no cost-benefit analysis for the very move they first touted for its “efficiency” benefits.

Putting aside the questionable legality of the department’s new base closure process and the contempt the move exhibits towards the Armed Services Committees, the new BRAC process shows manifest disregard for the thoughtful planning that should mark any wide-ranging decision that affects American security.

The success of “Blitzkrieg BRAC,” however, relies heavily on the department’s calculated expectation that Members of Congress are too narrow-sighted and self-interested to stand against the wholesale auctioning of our military. With attentions on Capitol Hill dominated by election considerations, the department anticipates members will gloss over their precedent-setting decision, disregarding them as parochial, rather than recognizing the blanket disregard for Congress’s constitutional oversight responsibilities.

The department’s closed-door calculations, however, are already beginning to unravel. Members from California, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida have expressed concern. Budget and Armed Services Committees have scheduled hearings and, should the House come under new leadership this fall, a targeted oversight campaign will be launched to shed light on the unrestrained social spending that is jeopardizing our nation’s security.

The Department of Defense ought to be ashamed. They ought to grieve the loss of trust, respect and credibility that their actions have inflicted. Had they taken a different course, they could have partnered with congressional advocates who want not only efficiencies in the department, but who are fighting to stop the overall spending hemorrhage that continues to threaten the department’s mission. They could have stood with many in Congress — long their allies and champions — who want to eliminate waste and spur much-needed investments in shipbuilding, ship maintenance and infrastructure.

Members would be wise to act quickly, giving the department’s actions the scrutiny a move of this magnitude deserves. With $100 billion of national security investment on this administration’s chopping block, a failure to do so will result, at best, in precedence for a unilateral BRAC process, and at worst, the systematic dismantling of the greatest military in the world.

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In Case You Missed It: Three Dozen Members of Congress Call for Gates Subpoena

On the heels of a tense, pointed and heated hearing on the Department of Defense’s proposed, and wholly unsubstantiated installation closures and budget cuts, 37 Members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats – have made the unprecedented but necessary move of asking the House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton and Ranking Member Buck McKeon, to require Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to testify and subpoena him, if necessary. Members from 22 states have signed the letter to end the Pentagon stonewall. 32 of 37 of the letter’s signatories are members of the Armed Services Committee, constituting a voting majority of the Committee.

The letter comes on top of a growing frustration over lack of transparency at the DoD, with the Department refusing to provide shipbuilding and aviation plans as required by law, placing "gag orders" on senior defense officials preventing them from providing information to Congress, refusing to send specific witnesses requested by the House Armed Services Committee, failing to meet deadlines for requests for documents related to defense cuts, and withholding information from Congress on defense decisions.

The following is a wrap-up of the events this week:

Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers - Give Us Gates, and Give Us Documents
Lawmakers are reaching for a rarely used tool — their subpoena power — in an effort to push back against the administration’s cost-cutting drive at the Pentagon.

Defense News: House Members Ask Skelton to Subpoena Gates, DoD 
U.S. House members have asked the Armed Services Committee to subpoena Defense Secretary Robert Gates, aiming to force the Pentagon to hand over the analysis used in its decision to close U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) and several other organizations.

The Hill: Standoff over Pentagon closure in Va. escalates with call to subpoena Gates
Amid growing frustration, 37 House lawmakers are pressing for a subpoena of Defense Secretary Robert Gates as a last-ditch effort to receive information on his decision to close the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM).

Daily Press: Va. congressmen gather support for Gates subpoena
Thirty-seven members of Congress have joined the call to compel Defense Secretary Robert Gates to testify about his decision to close Joint Forces Command in Norfolk.

Suffolk News-Herald: Forbes seeks subpoena
Following a testy exchange with Pentagon officials on Wednesday, Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA-04) told the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee that he would seek to subpoena the testimony of Defense Secretary Robert Gates if the Department of Defense did not attempt to more fully explain its plan to close U.S. Joint Forces Command.

Defense News: DoD Failed To Analyze Possible Savings of JFCOM Closure: Lawmakers
The Pentagon conducted no analysis of how much it might save from closing U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) prior to deciding to shutter the Norfolk, Va.-based organization, according to defense officials and lawmakers.

WVEC TV: Rep. Forbes wants to subpoena Sec. Gates to testify about JFCOM
A Virginia congressman wants to compel Defense Secretary Robert Gates to testify before a House committee on what went into his decision to call for the closing of the Joint Forces Command.

Pilot: Pentagon admits savings unknown if JFCOM closed
Several members of the House Armed Services Committee, including its chairman, voiced concern Wednesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plan to close the Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command would deal a severe blow to collaboration within the military.

Associated Press: Forbes promoting subpoena aimed at Gates
A Virginia congressman wants to compel Defense Secretary Robert Gates to testify before a House committee on what went into his decision to call for the closing of the Joint Forces Command.

House Passes Forbes' Bill to Increase Public Safety
This week, the House of Representatives passed the Senate companion version of Congressman Forbes' bill to increase public safety.
Follow this link to read more. 
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Congressman Forbes with Mark Klingman and Troy Tucker of the Virginia State University Mobile Lab outside Congressman Forbes' Government Contracting Seminar in Chesterfield on August 19th.
Congressman Forbes hosted a Government Contracting Seminar for any business person in the Fourth District who was interested in gaining insight and information into contracting with the federal government.
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