Top Dem sees momentum for new round of base closures

Top Dem sees momentum for new round of base closures
© Anne Wernikoff

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee says an increasing number of lawmakers and defense advocates want Congress to approve a new round of base closures.

“The notion that this was completely unacceptable which existed about a year ago is not there anymore amongst my fellow members,” Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithBipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress's approval GOP moves to block provision banning use of Defense funds for border wall Texas Republican: Migrant conditions in his state the 'worst' he's seen MORE (D-Wash.) said Thursday during a Defense Writers Group breakfast.

He pointed to lobbying efforts by defense community advocates who have told members to set up a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission [BRAC] “because this death of a thousand cuts is worse."

Congress has blocked repeated Pentagon requests to close bases over the last few years. Lawmakers worry that a base-closing commission could axe facilities in their own districts.

Senior members, including Armed Service Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), are also wary because the last BRAC round that occurred in 2005 ended up costing the Pentagon far more to implement than originally planned and only recently has begun to break even. 

Both versions of the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act rejected a new base closure round. However, the House draft contains a provision that directs DOD to examine its existing infrastructure and report the findings back to lawmakers.

Smith said that the biggest arguments against BRAC — that it might not save much money and that savings could be recouped by closing sites overseas — have run their course.

“Both of those arguments are kind of bulls**t,” he told reporters.

Smith said members have begun to realize that a new BRAC “would have a small upfront cost and significant long term savings." 

He said Thornberry shares that point of view but “doesn’t quite share it enough yet to say that it’s still a good idea and is something that we want to do.”

"I don’t think we’ve reached the end but we’ve reached the beginning of the end," according to Smith.