WASHINGTON — The defense bill scheduled for a Senate vote this week would prevent a new round of base closures, despite pleas from the Obama administration that the military be able to close installations while significantly reducing troop levels.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Monday that lawmakers who wrote the 2014 bill — which was approved by the House last week — were mostly united against more base closures and that there was very little debate.
“I've been pretty outspoken against another round during this administration,” Inhofe said in an interview.
Inhofe, of Tulsa, said his interests were not parochial. He often has noted that Oklahoma bases actually have prospered from previous rounds of base closures, gaining work from installations that were either closed or realigned, and he said Monday that he wasn't worried any of the state bases would be shuttered in a future round.
In the last round of base closures — held in 2005 — Fort Sill, the Army artillery training post near Lawton, gained the Air Defense Artillery school, augmenting its field artillery school. In the 1995 round, Tinker Air Force Base received much of the engine repair work that had been done at a base in San Antonio that was privatized.
Oklahoma has three Air Force bases — Tinker, Vance Air Force Base and Altus Air Force Base — Fort Sill and the Army's ammunition depot in McAlester.
The 2005 round of base closures has been criticized widely as a lost opportunity for the military to close big installations. But it came in the middle of two wars and wound up focusing more on shifting missions around — realignment — and on National Guard plane locations.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said Friday, “The Air Force went into the last round with an estimated 24 percent excess capacity — that was 2005 — and we're smaller now (in personnel) than we were then without having closed many bases in that round.”
I've been pretty outspoken against another round (of baseclosures) during this administration.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe,