BRAC 2017 or Sooner?
A new base closure round likely would not be held until 2017, according to David Berteau, senior vice president and director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
Berteau based his calculation on the events that led up to previous rounds and determined that the Pentagon’s initial request for a new round would not occur until it submits the fiscal year 2014 budget proposal in early 2013. In response, Congress would ask DOD to complete a study justifying another BRAC and, then, ask the Government Accountability Office to weigh in on the issue. At that point, possibly 2015, Congress would approve a new BRAC, giving the department two years to come up with its base closure recommendations.
“What could make it sooner? If DOD needed the cost savings,” he said. That scenario remains a distinct possibility given the overwhelming pressure to cut the federal deficit, Berteau added.
Berteau spoke Tuesday at a staff briefing hosted by the Defense Communities Caucus, a newly formed caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives dedicated to advancing issues facing communities with closed or active installations. The briefing was intended to familiarize congressional staff with the BRAC process and how a new one potentially would be carried out. Almost 40 staff members attended.
The caucus, which was formed in March, is chaired by Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.). A complete list of the caucus’ 39 House members is available on ADC’s website.
Berteau, who served as DOD’s senior BRAC official during the 1991 and 1993 BRAC rounds, did not specify the chances for Congress to approve a sixth round, noting, “Congress hates BRAC until a worse alternative shows up.”
Whether or not a new round is authorized in the near future, DOD is facing the “absolute certainty” of deep cuts. The debt ceiling agreement already mandates the department slash up to $500 billion over the next decade, and savings of several hundred billion dollars more likely will be needed even if automatic spending cuts are not triggered.
Officials will find it challenging to slash spending as the department lacks a clearly defined set of missions, he said.
Anthony Principi, who chaired the 2005 BRAC Commission and served as the secretary of Veterans Affairs from 2001-2005, told congressional staff that communities should start preparing immediately for the possibility of another round, mentioning several critical tasks they should undertake:
- assess their local installation’s strengths and weakness;
- study the selection criteria, data and rationale used to make selection decisions in the 2005 round;
- focus on protecting their local installation from encroachment issues; and
- set up base visits by senior DOD officials and the local congressional delegation.
Principi also highlighted a number of ways the BRAC process could be improved:
- DOD should do a better job of estimating the cost of closures and realignments;
- estimates of the cost of environmental restoration should be based on the likely future use of the property;
- DOD should complete a Quadrennial Defense Review prior to the start of a round;
- DOD should share the local burden of adding transportation infrastructure needed to accommodate mission growth at receiving bases; and
- communities should check DOD’s calculations of the local economic impact of a closure for accuracy.