Over the past four years, lawmakers have come up with multiple reasons to reject the Pentagon’s request to hold one or more rounds of base closures, but none of them have held up under scrutiny, especially as DOD faces severe spending constraints, says Mackenzie Eaglen, a resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute.
“Congress has dug in for too long on opposing the long-overdue next base closure round. The irony is that this is hurting communities and the military — not helping them, contrary to popular opinion,” Eaglen writes in a commentary published in Forbes.
The argument that BRAC does not save money is refuted by the $12 billion the first five rounds are saving annually, she writes. Even the 2005 round, with its emphasis on realigning missions rather than closing facilities outright, is saving $4 billion each year.
Lawmakers’ insistence that the department conduct an “overseas BRAC” before pruning its domestic infrastructure ignored the progress all three services have made in shrinking their footprint in Europe over the past 10-plus years as the U.S. presence overseas has been significantly curtailed.
The latest rationale for rejecting the administration’s request is that the ongoing drawdown of the armed forces may need to be reversed and, as a result, the department will need more space to accommodate its personnel.
“But here again, the numbers just don’t add up,” Eaglen writes. Even if a hawkish administration captures the White House in November, the size of the armed forces is unlikely to grow by more than 4 percent.
“[That] does not make a dent in the argument for why over 20 percent excess infrastructure cannot still be reduced to more manageable levels,” Eaglen states.
While Congress believes it is protecting defense communities by resisting a new BRAC round, “the hundreds of defense communities across America with a military presence are strongly on the record in favor of outright base closures over the slow bleed that is currently hollowing out many posts and bases from within,” she writes.
“Inaction and uncertainty is actually worse than the potential for bad news in the overwhelming majority of communities affected,” according to Eaglen’s commentary.
She concludes that it’s time for lawmakers to “finally start to listen to what is best for the U.S. military, the taxpayer, and the constituents back home when it comes to base closures.”