Administration to Ask for BRAC Authority, Panetta Says
President Obama will request Congress authorize use of the BRAC process, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said during a Pentagon news briefing held Thursday to preview DOD’s fiscal 2013 budget request, confirming speculation that had been swirling around Washington for much of the past year.
While some news reports have said DOD plans to request BRAC rounds in 2013 and 2015, Panetta did not say how many rounds the administration will request or what years it wants to select bases for closure or realignment. The secretary simply said the goal would be to identify additional savings that could be implemented as soon as possible.
“In this budget environment, we simply cannot … sustain the infrastructure that is beyond our needs or ability to maintain,” he said.
Panetta’s announcement that the administration would request the BRAC authority followed his overview of the changes in the nation’s force structure prompted by the need to pare $487 billion from spending through 2021.
The budget will call for the end strength of the active Army to fall from 562,000 to 490,000 by 2017, and for the size of the active Marine Corps to drop from 202,000 to 182,000 over the same period. A smaller ground force will allow the Air Force to reduce the size of its airlift fleet, he said.
Similarly, officials identified excess capabilities in tactical air forces. As a result, the budget proposes eliminating six of the 60 Air Force tactical air squadrons, as well as one training squadron.
“As we draw down the force, we’ve got to take a look at the infrastructure that’s supporting the remaining force. And the reality is that we are going to have to be able to reduce that infrastructure,” he observed.
Interestingly, Panetta stated that officials were not counting potential savings from a BRAC round toward their requirement to eliminate almost a half a trillion dollars in spending. Including those savings could have “undermined our whole budget” since the authority to go ahead with a base closure round hinges on Congress, he explained.
When asked by a reporter if he was “seriously considering” asking Congress for another round of base closures, Panetta responded that BRAC is the best approach to gain approval from Capitol Hill to reduce infrastructure.
“I’ve been through BRAC. I know its weaknesses and its failings. … But I have to tell you there is — there is no more effective process to make it happen than using the BRAC process,” he said.