Friday March 01, 2013 | 12:43 PM

WASHINGTON – Reports of additional possible military base closures are beginning to trickle out.

On Thursday, Politico reported that Department of Defense officials may soon seek two more rounds of base closures in order to deal with both a shrinking budget and a leaner military. 

“In a meeting this week of governors appointed to advise the government on defense issues, DoD officials said they planned to seek authorization for a round of the Base Realignment and Closure process first in 2015, followed by a second round in 2017, according to a former defense official,” Politico reported. The Pentagon declined to comment in the report.

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also said earlier in February that the department’s 2014 budget would include some base closure recommendations.

The Defense Department tried – and failed – to begin a new Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, process last year. Members of Congress, however, were apparently in no mood to begin the contentious discussion, which pits state against state as lawmakers seek to defend economically important bases in their districts.

Mainers living in the Brunswick and Kittery areas in 2005 likely remember the angst and uncertainty caused by the last BRAC. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery was eventually removed from the closure list after fierce opposition from Maine and New Hampshire lawmakers. However, Brunswick is still working to re-develop the now-closed Brunswick Naval Air Station.

There’s always a concern that the Portsmouth shipyard – which employs about 4,700 civilians – could be recommended for closure again. As noted here last week, however, members of the region’s congressional delegation hold potentially influential positions.

New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte respectively serve as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee that oversees the BRAC process and reviews any initial proposals. In Maine, Sen. Susan Collins serves on the Defense Subcommittee of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee while Sen. Angus King serves on the Armed Services subcommittee that oversees seapower.

Nonetheless, having people in power seats does not guarantee success, so any list of bases recommended for closure will be hot reading in Maine and New Hampshire.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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