Panetta Makes the Case for BRAC
At last week’s hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the fiscal 2013 budget request, the topic of BRAC came up often, with lawmakers questioning the rationale behind the Pentagon’s proposal for two more rounds a common refrain.
A comment from Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) was typical: “The 2005 round of BRAC will not even break even until 2018, according to GAO. That means for 13 years it’s going to cost more money to have more BRAC than it would if you didn’t have BRAC. And so having the Pentagon suggest two more rounds when it will aggravate the budget situation for 13 years, or at least a decade, leaves me scratching my head a little bit.”
One surprise was that Committee Chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) failed to mention the department’s looming request for BRAC rounds in 2013 and 2015.
In the minority regarding the possibility of another base closure round was the committee’s senior Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), who declared himself “the only one I think who has a single positive thing to say about it.” Smith used most his time to give Panetta an opportunity to explain the need for more base closures.
Perhaps more difficult than questions about the justification for BRAC was one about the Air Force’s proposed force structure changes that focused on the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Rep. Mark Critz (R-Pa.), concerned about the recommendation that would eliminate the Air Force Reserve’s 911th Airlift Wing and close the Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, asked the defense secretary, “How many other bases are being identified for unilateral Department of Defense closure outside of the BRAC process?”
Panetta successfully eluded the question, however, suggesting the congressman direct his question to the Air Force chief of staff, who made the decision.
A webcast of the hearing is available on the committee’s website.