Pentagon official says DOD needs more BRAC
The Defense Department is again asking Congress to allow it to use a tool that would help alleviate draconian budget cuts possible under sequestration: the base realignment and closure process.
The latest call came from Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. In a commentary printed Nov. 22, Kendall said the logic for another closure round is irrefutable.
The department simply cannot afford to keep excess infrastructure on the books, he said.
“For example, the Army has announced plans to reduce its force from 562,000 to 490,000 Soldiers and more reductions could be forced by looming budget cuts, but without BRAC the Army will not be allowed to close any bases to reduce overhead,” Kendall wrote. “This ‘empty space’ tax on our warfighters will simply result in cuts to capabilities elsewhere in the budget.”
And those cuts, more often than not, would occur in operations and maintenance and modernization accounts. Operations and maintenance cuts cripple near-term readiness, modernization cuts affect long-term readiness.
In 2004, the department estimated it had about 25 percent excess infrastructure. The 2005 base realignment and closure process cut roughly 53 percent of that. Since then the military has grown smaller so the percentage of excess infrastructure has probably crept up.
Even as the 2005 BRAC round was underway, then- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged the need for another round. His successor, Robert M. Gates, reiterated this as did Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and current Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Kendall emphasized that the BRAC process has been extraordinarily successful. The process is “an analytical, apolitical, transparent, independently validated process that has yielded billions of dollars in savings while making closed bases available to communities for redevelopment,” he said.
The department saves more than $12 billion a year from the five BRAC rounds announced in 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 2005.
DOD needs BRAC, Kendall said, to help carry out the balanced reductions required to comply with the $487 billion in cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The fiscal 2014 budget request assumes that a BRAC 2015 round will be a key component in reducing personnel in line with mandated reductions.
“In today’s environment, as we work to cobble together contingency plans on how to deal with the sequester over the long haul, a $6 billion investment that yields a $3 billion annual payback would be extraordinarily welcome,” he said.