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McCaskill shuts down talk of base closings, killing off possible political issue

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 21, 2012 - U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has put the skids on any Defense Department talk this year of more base closings by using her clout as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Military Readiness and Management Support, which oversees such issues.

McCaskill announced today that she won’t entertain any defense requests for another round of closings in 2013 under the Base Realignment and Closure program, known as BRAC for short. Such a discussion would have to take place this year, with a Senate commission set up to deal with the matter.

Policy issues aside, McCaskill’s decision may also have a political impact. McCaskill is among several dozen Senate Democrats seeking re-election this fall, and she’s also one of the top Republican targets.

While sidestepping the politics, McCaskill acknowledged that any base-closing talk is a hot topic in Missouri. “The impact BRAC has on our communities around the country, such as those surrounding my home state bases Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base, is extraordinary,” she said in her statement.

McCaskill, however, framed her decision as one influenced more by her public and national security. “I will not support a process that is callous or casual or one that is rushed before we fully comprehend whether the traumatic task is clearly in the best interests of the American taxpayer and our national security,” she said. “The department has a very long way to go before it proves to me that these initial criteria have been met.”

Talk of a possible new round of base closings first came up in January.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.