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Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh)
Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh)

Base closing proposal irks Owens

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced yesterday that he wants Congress to authorize a new round of base closures that could help the Pentagon save more than 500 million dollars.

That news angered Congressman Bill Owens, whose district includes the Fort Drum Army base near Watertown. Martha Foley has details.

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Owens says lawmakers were assured that the Defense Department wasn't considering another big round of base closures.

"The last time we asked it was about thirty days ago, we we're told it's absolutely not on the radar," he said. "So, I'm not happy about htat as you can imagine. To say the least, I'm really annoyed by this. I think it was done really unprofessionally."

Owens, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, is himself a former Air Force officer who lived in Plattsburgh when the last major "BRAC" base-closure process torpedoed Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

Many locals, including Owens, thought that process was unfair and politicized.

"It was supposed to be non-political," said Owens. "But it was very clear that the person who was the head of the BRAC commission was from New Jersey and, miraculously, that Air Force base was saved. It really raised some very substantial questions in my mind about the fairness of the process and whether or not it was done on the up and up."

Owens says he hopes Fort Drum won't be a target if the base closing process moves forward. 

In his press release, Panetta said the Department of Defense “simply cannot sustain infrastructure beyond our needs.”

Lawmakers most likely will take up the base-closing question as part of deliberations over the FY 2013 defense authorization bill.

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