Smith advocating for base flexibility short of BRAC

By Justin Doubleday / March 14, 2018 at 11:22 AM

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) says he'll advocate for giving the Defense Department more flexibility to close facilities and move assets this year, after the Pentagon neglected to request a Base Realignment and Closure round as part of its fiscal year 2019 budget.

"Collectively most people have surrendered on getting another BRAC round anytime soon," Smith said during an appearance today at the CATO Institute in Washington. "What we're going to try to do instead is at least create some flexibility in terms of how the Pentagon can move assets and shut down some facilities."

DOD's latest budget request abandoned a BRAC request, despite Defense Secretary Jim Mattis telling lawmakers in October "the time is now" for another round.

Smith has advocated for BRAC in the past, but most members oppose the process due to concerns it could drain their districts of jobs.

"Base closure does not have to be the catastrophe for the community that many people have portrayed it," Smith said.

"It's worse actually than just base closures," he continued. "The military is significantly hamstrung right now in their ability to move assets. Basically members of Congress seem to think that anything moved out of their district is the most egregious act ever committed and they will fight to the death to prevent it."

Smith said he understands why lawmakers are afraid of losing potentially tens of thousands of jobs due to a base closure, but he argues even minor changes to installations are too highly restricted.

"It drives me crazy when it's not significant, you still have to be a pain in the ass for no good reason," he said.

Despite the absence of BRAC in the Pentagon's FY-19 budget request, Smith said he will seek to include language in the FY-19 defense authorization bill that gives officials the flexibility to move military assets without fear of congressional interference.

"Personally that's what I'm going to advocate in the NDAA this year is to get some language in there to give people like the [U.S.] Transportation Commander greater flexibility," Smith said.