By Roxana Tiron - 02/06/07 12:00 AM EST
The Pentagon is requesting $8.2 billion to undertake its base realignment and closure (BRAC) commitments by 2011, but its timeline could be skewed if Congress does not approve additional funds for this year.
The request in part reflects the administration's recognition that the budget for implementing BRAC recommendations had been under-funded in previous years. The fiscal year 2008 request is more than $2 billion higher than what the military asked for in 2007. The request also factors in full funding for BRAC in 2007.
Last week, however, congressional appropriators decided to slash more than $3 billion from authorized BRAC funds in a joint continuing resolution funding the government until the end of the fiscal year, prompting criticism from the GOP and consternation from the military, which had pressed Congress to fund the authorized amounts.
Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) said that he is planning to add the extra BRAC funding to the war supplemental request that the administration submitted to Congress yesterday.
"Construction of facilities our forces need to fulfill their missions is a high priority. With so many demands on our existing infrastructure, including the re-stationing of units from overseas and the implementation of the 2005 BRAC round, we must ensure the services get the construction funding they need to reasonably plan for the strategic movement of forces and the provision of high-quality facilities for troops and their families," the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), said.
The White House is asking for $93.4 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of 2007, bringing the cost for this year alone close to $164 billion. Several sources said that the military is working with lawmakers to restore the rest of the funds for BRAC in the 2007 war supplemental or by reprogramming funds.
While the House passed the CR last week, the Senate still has to do so by Feb. 15. Several GOP senators are working on trying to add more money for BRAC in the CR. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), ranking member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs subcommittee, said she would employ "all options available" when the legislation comes before the Senate.
Defense officials have insisted for months that cuts in BRAC funds could be devastating to the services, which in some cases have tied troop rotations to their BRAC plans.
Not only do they need the money for military construction, they also would need the money soon. The supplemental will have to get congressional approval, which may take several weeks, further delaying implementation plans. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30. Several sources pointed out that it could be hard for the military to get the entire $3.3 billion in the 2007 supplemental.
Pentagon comptroller Tina Jonas said the Department of Defense would have to factor in the implications of the joint CR on the 2008 baseline numbers for BRAC.
The Army has 61 percent of the BRAC budget and the cuts in the CR could have widespread knock-on effects on rotating troops in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, building new brigades and bringing troops back from Germany.
The service has put together a complex plan that links its military construction and troop-movement plan with BRAC implementation.
Faced with the loss of billions of dollars this year, the Army is weighing its options for getting more money for its projects. The delay of those projects ultimately will have an impact on the service's tactical and operational units, an Army official said.
The Air Force is also sounding alarm. With a reduction of almost half in the 2007 budget, the Air Force like the rest of the military services "will be challenged" to implement BRAC by 2011, according to the Air Force's budget director, Maj. Gen. Frank Faykes.