Army, Air Force generals back base closures

Army, Air Force generals back base closures
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The vice chiefs of the Army and Air Force on Tuesday threw their support behind another round of base closures as a way to save substantial amounts of money that can be put to use for the military’s other needs.

"It's real money that we really need to reinvest into deferred maintenance and infrastructure backlog," Gen. Daniel Allyn, the Army's vice chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Gen. Stephen Wilson, vice chief of staff for the Air Force, agreed: "In today's budget environment, it makes sense to invest wisely, so BRAC would help us make smart investments to prepare for the future.”

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Wilson and Allyn were testifying alongside their Marines and Navy counterparts on the state of the military. They painted a bleak picture, lamenting that budget cuts have slashed the readiness of the force to fight in a war against a high-end adversary such as Russia.

But the closure process, known as Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), has been a politically unpopular solution to the issue. Lawmakers in both parties oppose BRAC because of the potential for negative economic impact on the communities around bases.

The last round of BRAC was in 2005, and under current law, another round is banned.

But supporters of BRAC were bolstered recently by Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: Pompeo lays out new Iran terms | Pentagon hints at more aggressive posture against Iran | House, Senate move on defense bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Sarah Sanders: ‘Democrats are losing their war against women in the Trump administration’ MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said he and committee ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Pompeo lays out new Iran terms | Pentagon hints at more aggressive posture against Iran | House, Senate move on defense bill Defense bill moves forward with lawmakers thinking about McCain Overnight Defense: Trump aide's comment mocking McCain sparks outrage | Haspel gets another 'no' vote | Pompeo floats North Korea aid for denuclearization MORE (D-R.I.) were looking into BRAC to address budget issues.

After McCain’s comment, Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Over 500 amendments proposed for defense bill | Measures address transgender troops, Yemen war | Trump taps acting VA chief as permanent secretary Congress, Trump eye new agency to invest in projects overseas Overnight Defense: House panel passes 6B defense bill | What's in the bill and what didn't make the cut | Pentagon details 'failures' in Niger operation | Trump, Kim meeting set MORE (D-Wash.), a longtime BRAC supporter and ranking member of the House committee, reintroduced a bill to allow for BRAC.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Allyn said the Army has saved $1 billion annually from the 2005 round and has about $11 billion in backlog maintenance. Wilson estimated the Air Force’s backlog totals $25 billion.

Right now, the Air Force has 25 percent excess capacity, Wilson added. Meanwhile, the Army will have a 21 percent excess capacity if it increases to 490,000 soldiers, Allyn said.

While Allyn and Wilson supported BRAC, Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said his service has the right amount of infrastructure for its needs.

“We think we’re about right,” he said. “But we’ll participate in BRAC to see if there’s any savings with our partners.”