By David McGlinchey
Two senators said Saturday that they plan to subpoena Defense Department documents on base realignment and closure recommendations if Pentagon officials do not hand them over willingly.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., the chairwoman and ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said they have had no success with "repeated requests" to the Defense Department.
On Friday, the senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld again demanding the documents. They also wrote to President Bush, asking for his assistance gaining the release of the papers. The senators say members of the BRAC commission and congressional staffers need the Pentagon documents in order to thoroughly examine - and perhaps challenge - the realignment and closure recommendations.
A spokeswoman for Collins said Tuesday that Defense officials have promised to hand over some documents in the near future. The spokeswoman said that congressional staffers will review those documents and decide whether they are sufficient. The senators might still be compelled to issue a subpoena, she added.
Defense spokesman Glen Flood said that BRAC documents would soon be available to members of Congress.
"The bottom line is that this evening or by tomorrow, we will have a special location somewhere," Flood said Tuesday. Lawmakers, congressional staffers with security clearances and members of the BRAC commission "can go and look at that information."
Flood said that Defense officials "will continue to do a security review and hopefully by the end of the week, we will make that information available to the public."
Collins and Lieberman represent states that would be among the hardest hit by the base realignment and closure process. Under the plan, Connecticut would lose 8,586 civilian and military jobs, and Maine would lose 6,938.
The senators demanded a wide range of data, including "e-mails, memoranda, spreadsheets, analyses, raw data, handwritten notes and telephone logs," according to a press release. The letter to Rumsfeld said the Pentagon is legally obliged to turn over the information.
"We are writing to demand that the Department of Defense comply with its statutory obligation to disclose to Congress all the information underlying its recent recommendations for military base closures and realignments," Collins and Lieberman wrote. They said that the 1990 BRAC legislation allows Congress access to "all information used by the secretary to prepare the recommendations".
The letter said that if the Pentagon remains in violation of the law, the committee will investigate the Defense Department and subpoena the relevant documents.
The senators said also that the delay in providing the information is hurting the chances that bases in New England will be removed from the BRAC list. They alleged that recent visits by the BRAC Commission to sites in New England are incomplete without the Pentagon data.
"The integrity of the BRAC process depends on the release of these documents," the senators said. "In addition, it is unfair to bases that have early visits from BRAC commissioners, such as those in Connecticut and Maine, to not have immediate data available to them."