Murphy's Law: April 8, 2004


German politicians are traveling to Washington to lobby against the closing of American military bases in Germany. Closing military bases in the United States has long been a major political and financial problem. Military bases have always brought new jobs (for civilians employed at the base) and the spending the troops and their families injected into the local economy. Shutting down a military base put tremendous pressure on politicians in Washington to intervene with the Department of Defense to "save the jobs." Congress, being a place where "you vote for my bill and I'll vote for yours" is the way things get done, proved unable to shut unneeded bases. The Department of Defense eventually made the case that the extra bases (usually 20-30 percent more than needed) were degrading Americas defenses. Money that should be going to troops and weapons, was instead being spent on what amounted to pork. So Congress developed a convoluted base closing procedure that got politicians off the hook when a base got closed in their back yard. Another round of base closings are in the works, because the Pentagon says it has about 25 percent more "infrastructure" than it needs. But many of the bases are in Germany, where American troops have been stationed since 1945. The Cold War is long over and the Department of Defense wants to close most of those German bases and send the troops back to the United States, or move them further east (where basing is cheaper and the troops are closer to future hot spots in Asia.) German politicians are feeling the heat back home. For one thing, most of the American bases are in rural parts of Germany where jobs are scarce in the best of times. The German army has also closed over a third of its own bases since the Cold War ended. So the German politicians have been coming to America, to plead their case and offer financial and political inducements to keep the American troops in Germany.


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