WASHINGTON — The need to save money has always been the main justification used by the Pentagon to sell Congress on the politically unpopular task of closing military bases no longer needed by the military.
But the latest round of closings is doing anything but cutting costs. The estimate for the price tag for closing or realigning more than 200 bases and installations was pegged at $21 billion when Congress approved the plan in 2005.
Now, that projected cost has ballooned to more than $30 billion, with increases blamed on better estimates of how much it will take to relocate and refit personnel and equipment, clean up often-polluted land and help communities cope with the loss — or gain — of a facility.
New Jersey Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, who are battling fiercely to scuttle the state’s impending loss of Fort Monmouth, want Congress to have the power to reconsider closing a base if the cost is substantially higher than originally thought.
If such a bill passes — and it could command legions of support from other lawmakers slated to lose bases — it would mark the first time Congress has intervened after the process has begun.