Opinion: Congress likes changes which hit someone else

Sen. Reverend Warnock, (D-GA) and Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) both opposed the closure of a military training facility near Savannah.

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Sen. Reverend Warnock, (D-GA) and Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) both opposed the closure of a military training facility near Savannah.

In recent weeks, lawmakers in Congress successfully stopped efforts by the feds to cut back VA and military programs in their districts. While it was cast as a victory by many — it’s also emblematic of how hard it is to make government more efficient.

The first dustup was over a military training facility near Savannah — which the Biden Administration wanted to shut down. That proposal had drawn bipartisan criticism from Georgia lawmakers, who celebrated the reversal.

“This is a major win for the First District, our military service members, and national security,” said U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler.

Trumpeting Georgia’s win, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s office referred to him as the ‘Champion of Georgia Military Bases.’

Nothing against Carter and Warnock — that’s what you would expect them to do: be a champion for facilities in the state of Georgia.

But that type of home-state advocacy is also why the U.S. military has too many facilities for its force size — because no lawmaker worth his or her salt is going to meekly accept the closure of a local installation.

A 2016 Pentagon study showed the Army and the Air Force with over 30% excess infrastructure — in other words, there are way too many bases.

The last base closure process (known as BRAC) was 17 years ago in 2005. But Congress isn’t in any mood to authorize a new review because it could threaten bases back home.

A few years back, Congress approved a BRAC-style review of the VA health care system, to make sure it was properly fitted to the needs of America’s veterans.

The report found certain areas of the country had too many VA facilities — while other areas needed more hospitals and clinics.

But the proposed changes — especially the cutbacks — generated the same type of strong opposition in Congress as a military base closure effort.

“Let’s be clear,” said U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., who was a sharp critic of the plan, “The VA should bolster its services for veterans, not reduce them.”

Hassan and others were doing the same thing Georgia lawmakers were doing on the Savannah military training facility — fighting to preserve programs at home.

After weeks of increasing complaints, the VA dropped its realignment effort.

For Georgia, that means the planned addition of new VA health care facilities — all to help with the growing numbers of vets around Atlanta, Augusta, and Macon — is now in limbo.

Congress talks a lot about making budget cuts and running programs more efficiently.

But that is seemingly okay only if the cutbacks happen in some other state.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com