Levin on BRAC: Not going to happen

There is not a path forward for Congress to agree to a new round of military base closures, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told The Hill.

“I just don’t think we’ve seen the value of it, including the last BRAC,” Levin said Wednesday, referring to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).

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“I haven’t seen the business case, whether they’ve given it to us or not I don’t know, but I don’t think they have proven that the last BRAC produced the savings they said it would,” Levin said after his committee heard testimony from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.

The Pentagon has proposed a new round of base closures in its last three budgets, including the one released Tuesday, and it’s been soundly rejected the last two years.

It’s going to be an uphill battle this year, too.

Levin said that he didn't see a way Congress would accept the new base closures just minutes after Hagel and Dempsey had left Capitol Hill.

The Pentagon argues that closing bases is necessary because the military already has 25 percent excess infrastructure and it plans to shrink its numbers further in the coming years.

Congress, however, is loath to support closing bases because of the economic hit that comes with it — which will occur in someone’s district.

Lawmakers frequently cite the last round of base closures in 2005, as Levin did Thursday. That BRAC cost more than anticipated and took longer than Pentagon official estimated to generate savings.

The Pentagon has argued that 2005 was an anomaly because it was a reorganization in the midst of two wars in addition to a cost-saving mechanism.

“Another round of BRAC would be very different than 2005,” Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told the Senate committee on Wednesday.

It would be aimed at saving money. It'll probably cost roughly, based on historical precedents, about $6 billion. We'll save $2 billion a year in perpetuity, and if we don't do that, we're basically wasting $2 billion a year.

“We need your help on this one,” Hale said to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H), who had asked about the base closures in the budget request.

Shaheen was not convinced by Hale’s plea, however. She issued a statement after the hearing declaring she had reiterated her opposition to base closures.

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