A new authority permitting the Defense Department to close or realign small installations outside of the BRAC process, with the consent of state and local officials, is included in House Armed Services Chair Mac Thornberry’s portion of the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill. “The chairman’s proposal recognizes that there are small installations around the country that have outlasted their purpose and their continued operation places an undue burden on the taxpayers and on the local community,” according to a summary released Friday. On Base reported last week that the authority would be introduced as an amendment to the defense policy bill. The text of the chairman’s mark will be released today, ahead of the committee’s markup scheduled for Wednesday.
The proposal does not authorize a new round of base closures as Thornberry remains concerned that DOD “does not have a full and accurate accounting of its real property or a realistic assessment of its excess capacity,” according to the summary. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers he does not believe the department’s existing assessment of its excess infrastructure is accurate, it adds.
The chairman’s mark also includes Thornberry’s plan to cut overall spending on DOD’s support activities — primarily civilian resources management, logistics management, services contracting and real estate management — by 25 percent by FY 2021. A summary of the chairman’s mark issued by the committee’s Democrats indicates that Thornberry’s initial proposal to eliminate seven defense support agencies, including the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), has been modified, however. That summary lists two agencies that would be eliminated entirely — Washington Headquarters Service and the Test Resource Management Center. Funding would be cut by a total of $442.5 million from 11 other activities and agencies, including OEA.
The Democrats’ summary says the spending reductions, which “are not justified by underlying analysis,” could harm military readiness, quality of life for personnel and efforts to eliminate wasteful spending. Cuts to OEA could affect support and grant programs for defense communities, it states.
DOD photo by Army Sgt. James McCann