Pentagon says 22 percent of military bases will be excess by 2019

Pentagon says 22 percent of military bases will be excess by 2019
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More than 20 percent of the Defense Department’s bases will be considered excess by 2019, according to a Pentagon report to Congress made public Friday.

The report, which was accompanied by a letter from Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, is meant to convince Congress of the need for Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) authorization, a politically unpopular process to close installations.

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“As Department of Defense leadership has repeatedly testified, spending resources on excess infrastructure does not make sense,” Work wrote. “Therefore, we urge Congress to provide the department authorization for another round of BRAC.”

The last round of BRAC was in 2005. Lawmakers have repeatedly shot down requests for another round because closures can have damaging economic effects on communities that have built up around military bases, making the prospect politically unpopular.

According to the report, the Pentagon will have 22 percent of excess capacity by 2019.

When looking at each service individually, it's 33 percent for the Army, 7 percent for the Navy, 32 percent for the Air Force and 12 percent for the Defense Logistics Agency.

Past rounds of BRAC in 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 2005 and European infrastructure consolidation in 2015 have saved the Pentagon a total of $14.1 billion, when adjusted for inflation.

In his letter, Work argued that even without BRAC, communities near military bases would feel the fiscal constraints of the military since the Pentagon would still have to make cuts across all installations.

“A better alternative is to close or realign installations with the lowest military value,” he said. “Without BRAC, local communities' ability to plan and adapt to these changes is less robust and offers fewer protections than under BRAC law. Further, because the cost of operating installations is relatively fixed, the magnitude of savings from efficiency measures are less than that from closing a base.”

Projections for what’s considered excess are based on the planned force size for 2019, with each service facing lower troop levels between now and then.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the report fails to justify another BRAC round since it bases its projections on the 2019 force size.

“No one believes that the current military force structure is adequate to meet the threats we face," he said in written statement. "Assessing our capacity based on an inadequate force structure makes no sense. It would lock in a future where our stressed military becomes permanently gutted. That’s why Congress directed the study to use military we had in 2012 as a baseline, to reflect the needs of a more capable force."

Rep. Adam SmithAdam SmithArmed Services leaders appoint strategy panel members House passes 6.5B defense policy bill House votes to allow Pentagon funding for gender transition MORE (D-Wash.), ranking member of the committee and a BRAC supporter, said the report shows why the closures are needed.

“I will continue to work toward legislation that authorizes an additional BRAC round, which also addresses the concerns and skepticism that linger from the 2005 BRAC,” he said in a written statement. “This study contributes substantially to our understanding of the value that another BRAC process would afford.”