Senate Panel Fails to Embrace Pentagon’s BRAC Request

Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services’ Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, reiterated her staunch opposition to a new BRAC round at her panel’s hearing Wednesday, a sentiment that was generally shared by the handful of members in attendance. 

“Even after acknowledging the shortcomings of the 2005 round, the department continues to request the same legislative framework,” Ayotte said at the outset of the hearing.

“I remain opposed to BRAC and do not want to give the department the open-ended authority to pursue another BRAC round that has the potential to incur significant upfront costs, when we do not have room in our budget in the next few years to afford many of the fundamental readiness issues that we need to address,” she said.

Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who was governor of South Dakota when Ellsworth Air Force Base was targeted in the 2005 round, similarly came out against authorizing a new base closure round.

“I come with a dislike for the BRAC process to begin with, so this is going to be a case of convincing me that it’s the right thing to do,” Rounds told the installation chiefs at the witness table.

The panel’s new ranking member, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D), indicated he isn’t satisfied with the BRAC process, but acknowledged DOD’s need to eliminate unneeded facilities.

“I’ve had questions about the BRAC process as to whether it’s the best way to do that very thing [rationalize the department’s infrastructure],” Kaine said.

“Those of us who had the experience of BRAC, we found it to be kind of an unwieldy way to come at it,” he said.

John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, attempted to address one of Ayotte’s concerns — the failure of DOD’s BRAC request to include changes in the process that respond to lawmakers’ concerns over the cost overruns and lack of savings that occurred in the 2005 round.

“We’re open to a discussion on this point. I would like to your solicit your suggestions as to specific changes in the BRAC legislation that would make it more acceptable,” Conger said in his opening statement. One idea Conger offered came from last year’s defense authorization bill, which placed a cost cap on the relocation of thousands of Marine Corps personnel from Okinawa to Guam.

“A model like that would be worth discussing. We’re not necessarily wedded to the original proposal,” Conger said.

A webcast of the hearing is available on the committee website.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen

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