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Pentagon backs off on base closures in 2019 budget request

Pentagon backs off on base closures in 2019 budget request
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The Pentagon is holding off its annual push to shutter unused and underutilized military facilities after last year’s call to remove unneeded infrastructure was unsuccessful.

The Defense Department’s (DOD) fiscal 2019 budget documents, released Monday, do not mention a Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). 

“We did not ask for that in this budget,” Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist said. “We’ve asked for it a number of times in the past without much success.”

Pentagon officials for years have sought to close military bases across the globe, arguing that by 2019 the military will have more than 20 percent excess capacity.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: US, South Korea cancel another military exercise | Dozen sailors injured in chopper crash on aircraft carrier | Navy vet charged with sending toxic letters US, South Korea cancel another military exercise Top US Afghan commander drew his sidearm during this week's attack: report MORE said last year that a BRAC could save the department $2 billion annually.

But the Pentagon has not had a BRAC since 2005, mainly due to opposition from lawmakers. Military bases are the economic engine of many of the towns they are located in.

The Pentagon asked for a new BRAC round in its version of the fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill, but the House denied the request.

Instead of a BRAC request this year, DOD officials will instead seek to work with Congress “to find common areas where we can make reforms and changes that don’t create the same types of obstacles,” Norquist said.

Norquist also hinted that the Pentagon will ask for a BRAC after its first full financial audit.

“There’s a view of being able to take advantage of the data coming out of that process to help us make better decision-making on real property,” he said.

Monday’s DOD budget request includes $617 billion in base budget funding and $69 billion in war chest funds, otherwise known as the Overseas Contingency Operation account.