WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom McMillen of Maryland has accused the Defense Department of using its base-closure process to "sidestep" and "undermine" an advisory commission charged with streamlining the operation of military laboratories.
The Pentagon next month will present a list of bases to bclosed or consolidated over the next several years. Contrary to the wishes of some congressmen, the list is expected to include military laboratories, 13 of which are in Maryland.
The lawmakers oppose the inclusion of labs in this year'base-closure recommendations because last fall they chartered an advisory commission to study the consolidation of defense research and development centers.
Maryland labs include the Navy's Taylor Research Center iBethesda and Annapolis and the Army Ballistic Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Maryland's lawmakers claim that the lab panel will conduct more comprehensive study of labs than the base closure commission.
The Defense Department is using the 1991 base-closing proces"as means of sidestepping the advisory commission," McMillen told a House Armed Services subcommittee Thursday. "If this is allowed to occur, the DOD will have effectively undermined the laboratory [Commission on Consolidation and Conversion] and avoided the specific intent of Congress to review the research laboratory system as a separate and unique federal resource," the Democratic congressman said.
Timing also poses a problem in the conflict.
The lab panel's recommendations aren't due until Sept. 30. Buthe base-closure commission will submit its list to the White House for approval July 1. If the base-reorganization process goes smoothly, the entire closure and consolidation proposal could be signed into law before the lab panel releases its recommendations.
Legislators now are trying to block the Pentagon's plansinsisting that the base-closure commission be forbidden to consider labs.
McMillen, whose 4th District includes the Taylor Center, says i -- the base-closure list submitted to Congress in July includes even one lab, he will vote against it. Congress cannot revise the list before voting on it.