Courtney sees BRAC passage unlikely

Norwich - A push toward closing defense bases may reappear in the 2015 budget, but U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said it's unlikely to pass.

Base realignment will not move forward this fiscal year, since Congress did not authorize a new round of closings, Courtney said at Tuesday's Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments meeting.

"That doesn't mean it's over," he told the regional council. The federal government's budget proposal for fiscal year 2015, which will be released in early March, could include another request by the Pentagon for Defense Base Realignment and Closure, he said.

He said he believes the House would try to block BRAC's passage.

Courtney said the Navy and Electric Boat are negotiating a five-year contract for the next group of Virginia-class submarines.

Later in the meeting, SCCOG Chairman Kevin Lyden described the potential base closure as "always looming in the distance" for the region. Lyden praised Courtney for his work in maintaining the pace of building two submarines per year.

"What can we do to be proactive to make sure we stay off the BRAC list?" asked Lyden, who is also first selectman of Salem.

In his comments, Courtney said the push for downsizing after Iraq and Afghanistan has been directed toward the other military services, rather than the Navy.

In addition, Courtney and the base commander, Capt. Carl Lahti, highlighted improvements at the Naval Submarine Base, including a ribbon-cutting for a new commissary in April, a new fitness center and other repair projects.

"The general sort of bias against BRAC is very strong in the House - added to that, it's an election year," Courtney said. "It's hard to visualize that anything like that is going to move."

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in an interview that he has heard rumors that the Pentagon plans to request another round of base closings.

"Their requests are routine, but the verdict is the same: Any request for BRAC will be dead on arrival," he said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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