Pentagon backs McCain, Reed effort to close extra military bases
The top Pentagon official in charge of military installations on Tuesday said the Department of Defense (DOD) backs a Congressional push to have another round of base closures in 2019.
A Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) — meant to divest the DOD of unused or underutilized military infrastructure — could help the Pentagon save money and reorganize for new military technologies, said Lucian Niemeyer, the new assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment.
Congress is also interested in such savings, prompting Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to draft in July a bill to be introduced as a possible amendment to the Senate’s fiscal 2018 defense policy bill. The bill will be debated next week.
“For us, it’s not just a matter of finding efficiencies, it’s a matter of improving the military value and the effectiveness and lethality of our military forces,” Niemeyer said at a Heritage Foundation event.
“That’s why we continue to push hard, and we support the Senate’s attempt to try to get a BRAC authorization inserted in the [2018 National Defense Authorization Act].”
McCain and Reed’s draft legislation would require a list of potential base closures and realignments to be compiled by the Pentagon, reviewed by the Government Accountability Office, certified by the president and then submitted to Congress by the fall of 2019. Congress would vote on passing the BRAC after a 60-day public comment period. The plan also places a $5 billion limit on the base closures, which would start by 2021.
The Pentagon for years has requested another BRAC, as it has not had one since 2005. Officials estimate that by 2019 DOD will have more than 20 percent excess capacity, prompting a renewed push for such a move.
The Trump administration also has expressed a desire to remove unneeded bases.
But lawmakers worry a BRAC would be politically unpopular with constituents. Many districts rely on military bases to boost the local economy, and lawmakers have fiercely resisted any move to shutter them.
The House has already voted down a provision in its defense spending bill that would have taken out language preventing a new round of base closures.
“In reality, a lot of members of Congress either know or believe that they have a target on their back when it comes to BRAC and they think there facility’s at risk,” said Andrew Hunter, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former congressional staffer.
“There has to be someone in Congress who is highly respected who is really taking this on and pushing it forward.”
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