Washington, D.C. — With the Trump administration’s decision not to request additional base closures with this year’s budget submission, the Pentagon’s uphill battle to demonstrate the benefits of a new BRAC round to lawmakers has been placed on the back burner, but the discussion can be expected to return to Capitol Hill eventually. At some point, DOD will need to rebalance its infrastructure, Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the audience Wednesday at the 2018 Defense Communities National Summit. “[That] will have to occur through a BRAC,” Harrison said.
That time likely could come when lawmakers realize the rising defense budget is not translating into a significantly larger force structure. The need to curb spending as the nation’s debt grows could provide a strong push in that direction as well. “Then BRAC will come back up,” Harrison said.
An additional factor at play is the dispute between the Pentagon and Congress over DOD’s estimate of its excess capacity. Lawmakers, along with a recent Government Accountability Office report, have called for a more precise estimate of the military’s unused capacity. In response, defense officials point out that is only possible when Congress authorizes a new BRAC round. Both sides have a point in this standoff, but lawmakers will be hesitant to jump into a new round in the absence of better data, said Mackenzie Eaglen, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
“It certainly helps forestall the next BRAC round,” Eaglen said.