New SASC Members Back Defense Transformation, Base Closures
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2003 Four new members of the Senate Armed Services Committee today said they support DoD's transformation efforts, noting another round of base closings is necessary.
Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, John Ensign of Nevada and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina spoke with reporters outside the Pentagon after attending a breakfast meeting with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia (from left to right), Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and John Ensign of Nevada at podium, spoke with reporters outside the Pentagon Jan. 16, 2003, after attending a breakfast meeting with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The four new members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said they support DoD's transformation efforts, noting another round of base closings is necessary. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rumsfeld "is doing a great job operating our military in these difficult times," Ensign declared, adding that he and his colleagues are also excited about the secretary's reform of the military.
"It's important that the military be good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars," Ensign said, noting that Rumsfeld's battles against bureaucracy and inefficiencies will greatly improve the Defense Department. "(He) has the right ideas changing the way personnel are managed, changing the way we run our bases."
Dole, Chambliss and Graham said they agreed with Ensign.
The senators' meeting with Rumsfeld was "very productive," Dole remarked, adding she has great confidence in the defense secretary "as he moves forward with transformation to meet the needs of the 21st century."
Many changes have already been made across DoD, Dole noted, such as improved financial management.
Chambliss gave kudos to Rumsfeld for operating the Pentagon like a business. "It is a big business and this (defense) secretary is doing all the things, in my opinion, to move us into the 21st century," he said.
Chambliss said Rumsfeld is making the right changes to transform the military into a "leaner and meaner" force that's capable of winning "every single battle that this military is faced with."
DoD under Rumsfeld, Graham said, is "challenging the Congress to give them the tools to be more flexible, to save money and be more efficient." Such tools, he implied, may involve legislation to change personnel rules for hiring and firing of DoD civilians. For example, Gov. Tom Ridge has already asked for and received from Congress more flexible personnel rules for government workers joining the Department of Homeland Security.
Some of Rumsfeld's requests of Congress "will challenge us as politicians because he's asking us to look at closing some facilities," Graham explained. He noted Rumfeld's also asking for changes in the law to give DoD more power to hire and fire civilian employees than currently exists.
Regarding future base closings, including overseas installations, he noted, "Everything is on the table."
However, Dole pointed out, any discussion now about base closings would be premature.
About 20 percent of stateside military bases "probably need to be closed," Ensign emphasized. "That's going to cause a lot of political heartburn." That's because the last BRAC, in 1995, was politicized, he said.
Congress members considering military transformation issues today "need to be operating in a bipartisan fashion, because the most important job of the federal government is defending the country through the military," Ensign noted.
Powell Moore, assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, introduced the new SASC members to reporters. He noted the other new committee members for the 108th Congress had been invited, but couldn't attend because of scheduling conflicts.
"We do everything here on a bipartisan basis," he said.