Key senator says ‘no’ to BRAC, but Courtney remains vigilant.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said Thursday he’s relieved that a key Democrat on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, told Pentagon brass this week that she would not consider a base closing bill in her subcommittee this year.

The Pentagon wants two new rounds of base closings, one in 2013 and one in 2015.

But Courtney, who represents the Naval Submarine Base New London, has argued a new Base Realignment and Closing Commission, or BRAC, won’t save money — at least in the short term, and will actually cost billions. That’s not a price  lawmakers can afford as they look for ways to shrink the federal budget, Courtney said.

“BRAC should be discarded as a pointless distraction from the real and serious job at hand: producing a balanced approach to the nation’s fiscal challenges that provides for a strong national defense,” Courtney said in a statement.

The Pentagon has said it won’t wait for permission from Congress to begin to shut down and realign bases.

But, under existing law, the Pentagon is prohibited from closing any military facility that employs 300 or more civilians. It is also prohibited from conducting any realignment that results in a reduction of more than 1,000 civilians or more than 50 percent of the number of civilians authorized to be employed at a base.

Connecticut’s submarine base has 1,403 civilian employees, well above the threshold for closure.

But under current law, the submarine base could lose personnel under a realignment.

President Obama can also shut down any base without Congress’ permission for reasons of national security or a military emergency.

Those are good reasons for base defenders like Courtney to be on guard.

“While the growing bipartisan opposition to a new BRAC makes congressional approval of a new round unlikely in this Congress, southeastern Connecticut knows all too well that we must stay vigilant in defending our (submarine base.)” Courtney said.

The Naval Submarine Base New London was recommended for closure in the last BRAC, conducted in 2005. But it was pulled off the list at the last minute after heavy lobbying by Courtney and other members of the Connecticut congressional delegation.