Navy backs BRAC — just not for the Navy

Navy leaders say they support the Pentagon’s push for a new round of base closures in 2017 — but that the Navy doesn’t need its bases cut.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said last week after visiting Naval Station Mayport in Florida that he did not think the Navy needed to close facilities — despite the Pentagon’s request for a new round of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) in 2017.

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Greenert’s comments seemed to undercut the argument from Pentagon officials that the department has to close bases in order to cut down on 25 percent excess infrastructure. Congress has blocked Pentagon requests to close bases the past two years.

On Tuesday, Greenert clarified his remarks to say that he supposed the BRAC process, but he didn’t think that meant the Navy would need to cut its bases.

“The Department of Defense is asking for a BRAC> I support that. It's not a bad process,” Greenert said at a House Appropriations Defense subcommittee hearing.

“It's kind of cleansing to look at what you need strategically and in the business case analysis of it,” he said. “With regard to our lay-down, our strategic dispersal, which I was addressing at the time, I'm satisfied with it.”

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said he agreed.

“We will certainly take a very hard look at all our capacities, at all the bases that we have, should Congress authorize a new BRAC round,” Mabus said. “And we do support the use of that tool. But we think that in the past because of past BRAC rounds, we have gotten rid of most of our excess capacity.”

Congress has resisted the Pentagon’s attempts to close bases because lawmakers are worried that authorizing the base-closing commission could lead to bases getting axed in their districts.

The base commission is given authority from Congress to select which bases to close, and Congress must either accept or reject the entire package.

Lawmakers have also questioned the up-front costs that come with closing bases, as the savings don’t kick in until later.

The Pentagon has argued that it’s wasting billions by not closing bases because it already has excess capacity and the military will continue to shrink.