Statement on Signing the Military Construction Authorization Bill.
I AM today signing H.R. 14846, the Military Construction Authorization Act for fiscal year 1977. H.R. 14846 provides a comprehensive construction program for fiscal year 1977 keyed to recognize military requirements.
Three months ago, I vetoed its predecessor, H.R. 12384, because it contained highly objectionable provisions that would have delayed for at least a year almost any action to close or realign a major military installation. Such unnecessary delay would have wasted defense dollars which are needed to strengthen our military capabilities and would also have substantially limited my powers as Commander in Chief over our military installations. This was obviously unacceptable and Congress sustained my veto.
The bill which I am signing today represents a substantial compromise on behalf of the Congress and refreshes my faith in the system of checks and balances established by our Constitution. The requirement of a year's delay, which I vetoed, has been replaced in H.R. 14846 by a 60-day waiting period. While I believe that current procedures provide adequate time for the Congress and other interested parties to review base realignment actions, the 60-day waiting period represents a compromise which I accept.
Since the 60-day delay is imposed after the completion of required studies and the announcement of the official realignment decision, further delay would waste essential defense resources. Thus, I am directing the Secretary of Defense to implement realignment plans at the conclusion of this 60-day period.
Finally, my concern for the economic difficulties faced by individuals and communities affected by defense realignments is well known. On July 12 of this year, I directed the heads of 20 Federal departments and agencies to strengthen their efforts to deal with all aspects of the problem. It should be noted that concerned departments and agencies have worked effectively with 136 communities in 40 States over the past 6 years, and have achieved notable results.
I am equally committed, however, to the principle that our economic adjustment efforts in communities affected by realignments must remain separate from national defense decisions to realign military installations. This legislation does not make base realignment decisions contingent upon the economic impact such decisions may have upon communities where affected bases are located. In this regard, the Senate Committee report on this bill states:
"... the decision to close or reduce a military installation must be based on military necessity with due regard for environmental impact. Military bases cannot be maintained to support other than national defense requirements."
In summary, H.R. 14846 provides a satisfactory and much needed military construction program for fiscal year 1977. I am confident that the bill will enable us to meet our essential military requirements in a responsible and cost-effective manner.
Note: As enacted, H.R. 14846, approved September 30, 1976, is Public Law 94-431 (90 Stat. 1349).
Gerald R. Ford, Statement on Signing the Military Construction Authorization Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/241552