U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said Wednesday that they oppose another round of military base closures like the ones that shuttered Brunswick Naval Air Station in 2005 and Loring Air Force Base in Limestone in 1991.
There has not been what is known as a Base Realignment and Closure process since 2005 but Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, have introduced a measure that would restart the process by 2021.
Collins said in written statements Wednesday that another round of base closures “does not make sense” from either a national defense or fiscal standpoint and King said paring military infrastructure “is not in our national security interests.”
“Previous BRAC rounds have had a disproportionate effect on Maine,” said Collins. “The closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station in the 2005 BRAC round left the military with no active-duty airfield in New England and failed to deliver the promised taxpayer savings. Numerous Navy officials have told me they regretted losing the base.”
King said closures also impact workers and and their families.
“We must remain committed to protecting them as they work to protect us,” said King.
Much of the base in Brunswick was turned over to private entities, which have brought in numerous businesses and located a community college there but much of the property remains undeveloped. The twin 8,000-foot runways at the facility are used less often than during the decades the Navy used them for reconnaissance and transport aircraft, though the facility still hosts military and civilian aviation shows, including one in August.
Loring has had a similar history since it was closed and today is the site of a military installation known as the Defense Finance and Accounting Services. That and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery are Maine’s major remaining military installations.
There have been five rounds of base closures since the 1980s, all of which were proposed as ways to streamline military operations and eliminate spending redundancies.
The call for another round comes after President Donald Trump campaigned on promises to increase military spending. He called for a more than $600 billion budget for defense and national security issues — $54 billion more than is allowed by the 2011 Budget Control Act — but has faced criticism from some that it doesn’t go far enough. The latest defense spending bill has since ballooned to near $700 billion and is under debate in the Senate this week.
The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act will fund national defense and security programs in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The base closure amendment is among several that are under consideration.