BRAC Isn’t Going Away, Panetta Tells Communities
Monterey, Calif. — Acknowledging there will not be a BRAC round next year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told more than 600 attendees Monday at the ADC 2012 Annual Conference that the nation’s fiscal challenges will continue to drive the need for DOD to pare its infrastructure at the same time it reduces its end strength.
“Our budget made tough decisions to cut the size of the force. It would be irresponsible for us not to cut excess infrastructure and overhead as well,” Panetta said.
And while it wasn’t a surprise that Congress shot down the department’s request to hold a new BRAC round in 2013, the Monterey native said it was an important topic to broach, and a debate that must continue.
“Now may not be the time for BRAC as our economy recovers, but sooner or later, one way or another, the department is going to need to take a hard look at its basing infrastructure as we seek to reduce our overhead costs,” Panetta said.
At the same time, Panetta, who represented Monterey in Congress for 16 years, pledged that the Office of Economic Adjustment would assist defense communities coping with a smaller DOD budget, including defense industry layoffs.
The same budget pressures prompting the military to trim its infrastructure also are compelling DOD and defense communities to pursue partnerships that can advance shared goals, particularly cost savings, he noted.
Panetta praised the model established in Monterey, in which the city provides municipal and other base support services to the Presidio of Monterey, saving the Army millions of dollars annually. As a result of the partnership’s success, DOD is considering how to apply the concept at other installations.
“I am committed to advancing partnerships between defense communities and the department across the country, and I challenge all of you to look for creative ways to help us better support each other and build stronger collaboration,” he said.
Panetta reinforced the significance communities hold for the military when he recounted his meeting in March with the Defense Communities Caucus, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers that provide a unified voice for the hundreds of communities that host active and closed installations.
“My message, which I will repeat today, was that close and effective partnership between DOD and military communities is absolutely critical, not only to the health of communities across the nation but to the strength of our military as well,” he said.
Panetta concluded his remarks by urging defense community leaders to press Congress to find a way out of the devastating spending cuts promised if budget sequestration is imposed starting in January. “It was never designed to be implemented. It was designed to trigger such untold damage that it would force people to do the right thing,” he said.
Watch the Pentagon Channel’s webcast of the secretary’s remarks.