Language in the House version of the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill requiring DOD to prepare a new, more detailed infrastructure assessment likely will do little to change lawmakers’ opposition to a new round of base closures, according to an op-ed in the Hill by Frederico Bartels, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. If nothing else, the pending study, due in February 2020, will provide Congress an excuse to postpone a decision on the need for a new BRAC. And while the requirements for the new study will allow for a more up-to-date assessment, the result is unlikely to change significantly from excess capacity studies the department prepared in March 2016 and October 2017. “Lawmakers are once again changing the parameters, in the hopes they will be able to avoid a new round of BRAC,” Bartels stated.
The provision’s requirement for DOD to identify installations with either a capacity shortfall or excess almost certainly will serve to trigger opposition to a new BRAC from lawmakers representing districts with bases cited in the study, he said. The lack of detail in DOD’s previous estimates of its excess infrastructure probably frustrated lawmakers but was needed to avoid signaling possible actions in a future BRAC round. The best way for Congress to learn more about the military’s excess capacity is to authorize a new round of base closures, Bartels emphasized.
“As it stands, Section 2812 is a delay tactic dressed up as a robust data call. The Pentagon has excess infrastructure. Whether that excess accounts for 22 percent of its holdings, or 19 percent, or even just half of that is largely irrelevant for starting a new round of BRAC,” he stated.
Don’t miss a panel discussion covering the trends, politics and policies that will define the year ahead on Wednesday, June 20 at the 2018 Defense Communities National Summit. Featured speakers include Bartels along with Blaise Misztal, director of national security at the Bipartisan Policy Center; Mackenzie Eaglen, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; and Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Johnny Bivera