Need for BRAC is Clear, Installation Officials Tell Lawmakers

A new round of base closures is needed to avoid wasting money on unneeded facilities, John Conger, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told the House Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Wednesday.  

Equally important, granting DOD the authority to realign and shutter installations also would free up defense funds for other urgent priorities, including readiness and modernization, Conger told lawmakers.   

The services’ installation chiefs who testified along with Conger all emphasized that they have excess capacity, a disparity that is particularly acute for the Army and Air Force.  

The Army has an average of 18 percent excess capacity at its U.S. posts, based on a recent facility capacity analysis, said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary for installations, energy and environment. Planned cuts to the service’s end strength will only exacerbate that surplus, Hammack said, reported Stars and Stripes

The Air Force calculated it had 24 percent excess capacity at the beginning of the 2005 round, a figure which dropped only slightly after the exercise was completed, said Kathleen Ferguson, acting assistant secretary for installations, environment and logistics. And since then the service’s force structure has shrunk substantially as 500 aircraft have been retired, leaving plenty of excess infrastructure.

The Navy doesn’t have a recent analysis, but officials believe the service has some excess capacity and support another BRAC, Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment, told the panel.

Conger also addressed one of lawmakers’ key arguments against approving the Pentagon’s request for a round in 2017, mainly that it cost too much. “The key reason that BRAC 2005 cost so much was that we were willing to accept recommendations that did not save money,” he told lawmakers. “They did not pay back.”

DOD justified the lack of savings because it was trying to achieve transformation as well as efficiency. Realignments made to transform the department cost $29 billion but only resulted in about $1 billion in annual savings, Conger said. Recommendations focused on efficiency, though, cost only $6 billion and resulted in recurring savings of $3 billion annually.

This time DOD is requesting only the efficiency piece, he said.

Conger also updated the panel on the department’s European Infrastructure Consolidation Review.

“In this effort, we’re not looking at bringing forces back to the United States,” he said. “We hold forces constant, and we’re looking for efficiencies. So it will not take pressure away from the need for a new BRAC round,” Conger noted, according to American Forces Press Service.

European infrastructure already has been trimmed by 30 percent since 2000. The results of the review are expected this spring, he said.  

The witnesses’ written testimony is available on the committee’s website.

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