WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) — A Pentagon report to Congress found 22 percent of U.S. military bases and facilities will be considered excess by 2019.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said lawmakers should consider a new round of controversial Base Realignment and Closures or BRACs.
“As Department of Defense leadership has repeatedly testified, spending resources on excess infrastructure does not make sense,” Work said. “Therefore, we urge Congress to provide the Department authorization for another round of BRAC.”
A report by the Department of Defense showed that the Army’s excess capacity is 33 percent, the Air Force’s is 32 percent, the Defense Logistics Agency’s is 12 percent and the Navy’s is 7 percent.
Days before the Pentagon report was released, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte said she would not include the authority to conduct a BRAC round in the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management’s version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
“I do not want to give the department the open-ended authority to pursue another BRAC round that will potentially incur significant upfront costs when we do not have the room in our budget in the next few years to afford many fundamental readiness investments that are right before us,” she said.
While often politically unpopular, past BRAC rounds between 1988 and 2005, as well as European infrastructure consolidation in 2015, have saved the Pentagon $14.1 billion, according to The Hill.
Work also addressed concerns around the “socioeconomic” effects of BRAC on the surrounding areas by saying closing the bases would provide less of a financial impact than having the Pentagon make cuts across installations.
“Under current fiscal restraints, local communities will experience economic impacts regardless of a congressional decision regarding BRAC authorization,” Work said. “This has the harmful and unintended consequence of forcing the military departments to consider cuts at all installations, without regard to military value. A better alternative is to close or realign installations with the lowest military value.”
Republican Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Pentagon report failed to justify a round of BRAC because it’s projections were based on the size of the military force in 2019, instead of the 2012 size which Congress uses as a baseline.
“The capacity report the Pentagon belatedly delivered to Congress simply doesn’t tell us what we need to know,” he said. “In envisioning a military far smaller than anyone thinks is wise, it fails to comply with the law as badly as it fails to justify a BRAC round.”
BRAC supporter and Democrat Rep. Adam Smith said the report “makes clear” the amount of excess infrastructure maintained by the Department of Defense.
“I will continue to work toward legislation that authorizes an additional BRAC round, which also addresses the concerns and skepticism that linger from the 2005 BRAC,” he said. “This study contributes substantially to our understanding of the value that another BRAC process would afford.”