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 McCainThis week: ObamaCare repeal vote looms over Senate Week ahead: Senate defense bill faces delay Senate healthcare bill appears headed for failure MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said he and committee ranking member Jack ReedJack ReedArmed Services leaders appoint strategy panel members Senators ask for Syria policy study in defense bill Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Pentagon No. 2 | Uncertain future for Iran deal | Trump to visit Pentagon Thursday | Key general opposes military space corps MORE (D-R.I.) were looking into BRAC to address budget issues.

After McCain’s comment, 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.), 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.”