Armed Services panel rejects new round of base closures

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday approved language in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act explicitly barring the Pentagon from carrying out a fresh round of base closures.

The voice vote further reiterated opposition to a Defense Department request to appoint a Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2017 that would have had authority to select military facilities to shutter.

The committee's Readiness subpanel last week was the first to toss out the idea. The move was endorsed by Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who ruled out a new BRAC in his mark of the authorization bill.

ADVERTISEMENT
Pentagon officials have repeatedly argued that the department must close bases in order to cut down on roughly 25 percent in excess infrastructure.

Those pleas have been ignored by lawmakers who fear installations in their home districts could be closed. Lawmakers would have to sign off or reject the BRAC commission’s recommendations in full.

Rep. Adam SmithAdam SmithGOP rebuffs call to uphold Obama veto Senate poised to override Obama veto Overnight Defense: Debate night is here | Senate sets vote on 9/11 veto override | Kerry, McCain spar over Syria MORE (D-Wash.), the committee’s ranking member, introduced and quickly withdrew an amendment Wednesday to force a new BRAC round.

He said he recognized his colleagues had “deep concerns” about a new round of closures but contended that the “size of the military is shrinking.”

“This is going to need to be done in terms of saving money,” Smith said.

The Washington Democrat conceded the last BRAC round, carried out in 2005, “cost more than was estimated and is taking longer to recoup” expected savings. He said a fresh round would be different because it would focus on shuttering facilities, rather than realigning military forces in the midst of two wars.

Smith said the Pentagon estimated a new BRAC round would cost about $6 billion and recoup $2 billion annually.

He acknowledged that the process is “not popular in Congress because once you throw it open, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” but he insisted action must be taken “sooner would be better than later.”

Smith vowed to reintroduce his amendment when the authorization bill reaches the full House floor later this month.

McKeon commended Smith for his “courage.”