Defense Officials Signal Intention to Request New BRAC Round
Defense Communities 360
January 11, 2015
Comments last week by two senior DOD officials provided a relatively strong indication the Obama administration once more will ask Congress for permission to conduct another round of base closures when it submits its fiscal 2016 budget request next month.  

On Friday Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters that the European infrastructure consolidation announced the previous day didn’t change the department’s view of the pressing need for a new BRAC round.

“You know, we’re operating right now with what we think is about a 25 percent excess infrastructure here in the continental United States. And we simply can’t afford that,” said Kirby. “And I suspect you’ll see that — that be part of the discussion moving forward into February,” he said.

At the same time, Kirby acknowledged the difficulty in convincing lawmakers to approve additional base closures.

“We know this is not an easy thing for the Congress to take up and to deal with. We know these are not easy decisions to make. The secretary wants very much to work with the Congress as we move forward to try to get another round of BRAC. It really is necessary. It really is necessary. And it’s time. It’s overdue, actually,” he said.

Earlier in the week, the Pentagon’s top installations official reiterated the case he would make for holding a new round of base closures.

“I believe that doing another BRAC round is simply good government,” John Conger, performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, told the Hill.

“I will say that we’ve asked for a number of years in a row and [we] have maintained during those requests that it is important to reduce … excess infrastructure during these tough fiscal times as we’re reducing force structure. There are savings to be had that will ease the burden on the budget,” Conger said.

Officials concluded DOD had 24 percent excess infrastructure prior to the 2005 BRAC round, an exercise that trimmed only 3.4 percent of the department’s capacity. With military force structure declining significantly since then, the need to pare excess capacity is even greater now, he told the publication. And as the number of personnel continues to fall, the urgency to eliminate unneeded facilities will become even clearer.

“It will become more apparent as fewer people go out to restaurants in town, it affects the housing markets, it affects a whole host of things,” Conger said. “People in the local communities will feel that and they realize that having a half-empty base isn’t necessarily the best thing.”