Dems push for allowing base closures

Dems push for allowing base closures
© Getty Images

Seven Democratic lawmakers are pushing to allow the military to close excess bases with a bill introduced in the House on Tuesday.

“We need to provide the Department of Defense flexibility to find savings and efficiencies wherever it can in order to support our warfighters,” Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen MORE (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a  statement. “That is especially true now, as Congress continues to strain the military by funding it through short-term budget agreements. We should not be making the military cut training and supplies while at the same time refusing to let DOD save money that we know is not being used productively.”

Smith introduced the bill with Democratic Reps. Sam FarrSamuel (Sam) Sharon FarrMedical marijuana supporters hopeful about government funding bill Marijuana advocates to give away free joints on Capitol Hill DEA decision against reclassifying marijuana ignores public opinion MORE (Calif.), Susan Davis (Calif.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Madeleine BordalloMadeleine Mary BordalloOvernight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks 5 things to know about Guam Guam delegate: Constituents 'very concerned' about North Korea threat MORE (Guam), Jackie Speier (Calif.) and Beto O’Rourke (Texas).

Right now, another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round is prohibited. That ban would remain in place undr the 2017 defense policy bills passed by the House and Senate recently. The same is true of the House-passed 2017 defense spending bill and the Senate version of the spending bill awaiting a floor vote.

Smith proposed replacing the ban with a plan that would allow for base closures when his committee considered the policy bill, but the effort went nowhere.

Last week, the House also voted down, 157-263, an amendment from O’Rourke to the defense spending bill that would have struck the ban.

The Pentagon recently submitted a report to Congress arguing for another BRAC round, saying it will have 22 percent excess capacity by 2019.

The last round of BRAC was in 2005. Lawmakers have repeatedly denied requests for another round because of the potential for negative economic effects on the communities around bases, making the prospect politically unpopular.

The bill introduced Tuesday, which is identical to Smith’s earlier plan, would override the bans in current law and set up a process that would allow for more closures.

The process in the bill would start with the Pentagon submitting a report to Congress on its projections on force structure 20 years out, an inventory of military infrastructure and the infrastructure capacity needed to support the 20-year force structure. The comptroller general would need to make a similar report.

The Defense secretary would also need to certify that it’s necessary to close, consolidate or realign bases and that there would be a net savings within five years.

Congress would then have 90 days to review the report and certification and could block the Pentagon from moving forward within that time.

If Congress doesn’t block the Pentagon after 90 days, the Pentagon could then make recommendations on which bases to close based on criteria including military value and net savings.

An independent commission would then review the recommendations and make its own recommendations to the president, who would then report the findings to Congress. Congress would then have 45 days to block the process from moving forward.

The bill seeks to address lawmakers' concerns about the 2005 BRAC round, its sponsors said, such as providing Congress a chance to block the process after the Pentagon’s report and placing an emphasis on cost savings after five years instead of 20.

“This bill will help Congress overcome its fear of BRAC,” Farr said in a written statement. “It reforms the BRAC process so it is more community-oriented, more efficient and more about real cost savings. It also requires that the round be completed in five years rather than six, shortening the time that results will be achieved.”