The Pentagon’s Push to Close Bases Is ‘Dead on Arrival’

A top Defense official said the department is already hearing that its request is doomed.

National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Feb. 25, 2014, 9:49 a.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion isn’t drop­ping its 2015 de­fense budget un­til next week, but one pro­vi­sion in it already ap­pears doomed: a push to re­lo­cate or close mil­it­ary bases.

De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel on Monday out­lined the De­fense De­part­ment’s budget re­quest for the com­ing fisc­al year, ask­ing Con­gress to ap­prove an­oth­er round of base re­align­ment and clos­ure in 2017.

But Pentagon of­fi­cials are already hear­ing that the re­quest would be “dead on ar­rival on Cap­it­ol Hill,” act­ing Deputy De­fense Sec­ret­ary Christine Fox said Tues­day at a de­fense budget con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton.

The last round of BRAC, which oc­curred in 2005, over­shot ini­tial cost pro­jec­tions by ap­prox­im­ately $14 bil­lion, and in a time of fisc­al aus­ter­ity mem­bers of Con­gress are wary of try­ing again.

Fox ac­know­ledged that “nobody looks for­ward to clos­ing bases or fa­cil­it­ies,” and it wouldn’t be the first time mem­bers have blocked the Pentagon. De­fense of­fi­cials in­cluded a re­quest in its past two budget re­quests, only to be shot down.

Des­pite Con­gress’s re­luct­ance, 91 per­cent of Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Se­cur­ity In­siders said earli­er this month that Con­gress needs to al­low the Pentagon to close mil­it­ary bases.

But vot­ing to close bases also has a P.R.-angle for mem­bers of Con­gress — who while largely vot­ing to sup­port the smal­ler budget num­bers — don’t want to be re­spons­ible for clos­ing bases, and cost­ing jobs, in their own dis­tricts and states.

DOD of­fi­cials be­lieve they have ap­prox­im­ately 25 per­cent more bases than they need for the force re­duc­tions the mil­it­ary is un­der­go­ing — both in con­nec­tion to the budget and sep­ar­ately, Fox said.

The sav­ings the De­fense De­part­ment hopes to achieve through an­oth­er BRAC round will be in­cluded in the soon-to-be-re­leased budget, Fox noted, but ad­ded that it “doesn’t show a lot of the long-term sav­ings that we hope to get.”

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