DOD opted not to include a request for a new round of base closures when it submitted its fiscal 2019 budget proposal earlier this year, but by no means have defense officials given up on the prospect of asking for a BRAC in the future. On Wednesday, the department’s installations chief told lawmakers that because the administration had just released its National Defense Strategy, it didn’t make sense to include a request for a new round. “We weren’t really in good conscience ready to ask Congress for an authorization for BRAC this year,” Lucian Niemeyer, assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, told the House Armed Services’ Readiness Subcommittee.
Instead, officials decided to take a pause. “We’re looking at the National Defense Strategy; we would like to reevaluate to what degree we think moving forward base closures might help us carry out the defense strategy to become more lethal,” he said in response to a question from Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.).
The department is using the pause to reassess its most recent calculation of how much excess infrastructure it is carrying. Niemeyer told Courtney there were “some concerns” about the report DOD released last year that estimated 19 percent of its capacity was excess. The department is embarking on an effort with the services to take a closer look at how fully their facilities are being utilized. “We’re trying to get it to be an enterprise look. … and make sure we are optimally occupying our facilities.”
When officials are confident they have a good handle on “exactly where we have excess,” they will brief the defense secretary. Niemeyer did not volunteer how long the process would take or what the next steps may be, however.
He also reiterated the argument that a new BRAC round would not only help DOD save money but it also would provide an opportunity for the military “to get more lethal” by consolidating forces and realigning its installations. Unmanned systems, cybersecurity and other new missions were not significant factors during the last base closure round. “How do we lay in those new technologies onto our existing Cold War basing structure? Do we even know what a base of the future really should look like?” Niemeyer asked.
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Starkey