The House Armed Services Committee has again declined to authorize a new round of politically radioactive base realignments and closures, though the Defense Department, which believes it is operating at 22 percent excess capacity, has explicitly requested BRAC.
“Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, affirming congressional intent to reject the budget request to authorize another BRAC round in 2019,” states fiscal year 2017 defense authorization bill legislation proposed by the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee.
However, nothing in the bill would prohibit DOD from conducting an analysis or study to report to Congress on its infrastructure needs.
The Pentagon recently sent Congress the results of an internal study stating that expected force structure levels for FY-19 will leave the department with 22 percent total excess capacity of which the Army will account for 33 percent, the Air Force 32 percent, the Defense Logistics Agency 12 percent, and the Navy 12 percent.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the ranking member on the committee, is a strong supporter of DOD's efforts to trim excess infrastructure and plans to introduce legislation supporting a BRAC, according to committee staffers.
“In the current budget environment, rather than waste money on excess infrastructure, we need to locate potential efficiencies and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely,” he said in an April 14 statement. “This report makes clear that DOD maintains a large amount of infrastructure that it does not need. I will continue to work toward legislation that authorizes an additional BRAC round.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) released a statement the same day saying DOD's report was insufficient, in part, because it relied on force structure estimates planned for 2019, not those in place during 2012 as directed by Congress in last year's authorization bill.
“The capacity report the Pentagon belatedly delivered to Congress simply doesn’t tell us what we need to know,” he said. “In envisioning a military far smaller than anyone thinks is wise, it fails to comply with the law as badly as it fails to justify a BRAC round. No one believes that the current military force structure is adequate to meet the threats we face. That’s why Congress directed the study to use military we had in 2012 as a baseline, to reflect the needs of a more capable force. The legal requirement to submit a capacity report based on 2012 force levels remains unfulfilled.”