Pentagon chief pushes for new round of base closures

Pentagon chief pushes for new round of base closures
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Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisArmy chief: Poland doesn’t have space for ‘Fort Trump’ The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes MORE is urging Congress to allow a long-desired round of military base closures after a new report to lawmakers found that nearly one-fifth of Department of Defense (DOD) facilities are unneeded.

Mattis, in a newly released letter to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees — which handle defense matters — argues a new round of Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) talks is the only “fair, objective and proven process” to evaluate the value — or lack thereof — of such military facilities.

“Every unnecessary facility we maintain requires us to cut capabilities elsewhere,” Mattis wrote in the Oct. 6 letter, which accompanied a report that found about 19 percent of Pentagon-owned buildings are excess infrastructure.

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“I must be able to eliminate excess infrastructure in order to shift resources to readiness and modernization,” he wrote.

The infrastructure capacity study to Congress found that 29 percent of Army buildings and 28 percent of all Air Force facilities are excess. The Navy, meanwhile, has classified 6 percent of its buildings as unneeded, and the Defense Logistics Agency has similarly said 13 percent of its facilities are excess. The findings are based on force structure levels from 2012.

“DoD has not been authorized to undertake a BRAC analysis for over 14 years. In those years, the Department has undergone considerable changes that have impacted the force structure, mission requirements and threats facing the United States,” according to the report.

“Reality and common business sense dictate that infrastructure should be reconfigured to meet specific needs and changing threats,” it adds. “Congress should authorize the Department to undertake a BRAC 2021 round as it has requested.”

Pentagon officials for the past five years have asked Congress for permission to start another round of base closures. But lawmakers, fearing that a BRAC round would target bases in their districts and be politically damaging, have blocked such a move.

The House again denied a request this year, but Armed Services Committee Ranking Democrat 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 (Wash.), a BRAC advocate, said the new report makes an “extremely strong” case for authorizing such a move.

“We are wasting taxpayer money to maintain buildings and facilities that the military does not need, while we drain away funds for readiness and weaponry that could keep our service members safe and our country secure,” Smith said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mattis also assured lawmakers in the letter that he wants a more detailed “installation by installation capacity analysis” and would only begin a BRAC round in 2021 if he believes one is needed and savings for each service would occur.

“The BRAC process provides opportunities for military forces to be more effective, for capabilities to be enhanced, and for savings to be applied to higher priorities,” Mattis wrote.

“Now is the time to authorize another round," he said.