JT. BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST ,
Sep 23, 2012
Asbury Park Press, Sept. 23, 2012:
Amid increasing political jitters over the potential for draconian military budget cuts next year, New Jersey congressmen hosted Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on a tour of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Saturday.
"It was an opportunity to enlighten everyone how the country benefits” from the 40,000-acre military reservation that hosts every branch of the military, said Rep. Jon Runyan, who with Rep. Chris Smith, both R-N.J., showed McKeon around.
“Twenty percent of our National Guard live within 300 miles of this base,” making it an important part of matching up Guard and Reserve units with the active forces, Runyan said.
The joint base is a survivor of four rounds of post-Cold War military base closings, and civilian supporters hoped that making it a consolidation point for many new missions would protect it — and New Jersey’s economy — against future closings.
It’s unclear if another round of closings is in the cards, McKeon said. The government is already moving to cut $500 billion in military spending over 10 years.
“When the budget was proposed, the administration called for two rounds of BRAC,” or Base Realignment and Closing, McKeon said. “Now the president was in Virginia, and said we’re not going to have a BRAC. So there’s mixed messages.”
The more immediate danger is sequestration budget cuts that will kick in Jan. 2 unless Congress acts after the election, the congressmen said.
“If we don’t solve the sequestration problem, the Pentagon basically shuts down Jan. 2,” McKeon said.
Military chiefs told his committee they can absorb the 10-year schedule for cuts, McKeon said. “But sequestration would be, as (Defense) Secretary (Leon) Panetta has said, like shooting yourself in the head.” Those cuts would shrink the military back to pre-World War II levels, he said.
“We really have to focus on bringing expenses under control, but we can’t do it on the backs of the military,” McKeon said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen us cutback when we’re at war.”
The Republicans took a swipe at Democratic leaders in the Senate who they say are unwilling to offer concrete budget counter-proposals to Republicans in the House.
“The problem is not on the House side,” Smith said.
McKeon contended Democratic leaders are cultivating conflict to continue an image of stalemate “so President Obama can run against a do-nothing Congress.”
Kirk Moore: 732-557-5728; kmoore@
The orginal published article can be read at