Pentagon Says Report Justifies A Round Of Base Closures
By Julia Bergman
April 19, 2016
A new Defense Department report that analyzes its U.S. infrastructure shows the Navy has 7 percent excess capacity in comparison to the Army's 33 percent and the Air Force's 32 percent.
Pentagon officials say the findings justify a Base Realignment and Closure round, but U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, predicted Congress would continue to reject that idea.
"Seven percent is a small number," he said, adding that the Navy's number also incorporates excess infrastructure within the Marine Corps.
The report reinforces what top Navy officials have said in recent years, which is "the Navy is pretty comfortable with the footprint they have," Courtney said.
The Defense Logistics Agency has 12 percent, and overall the department has 22 percent excess infrastructure, according to the report.
Robert Work, deputy secretary of defense, wrote a letter that accompanied the report sent to congressional committees last week.
"Under current fiscal restraints, local communities will experience economic impacts regardless of a congressional decision regarding BRAC authorization. This has the harmful and unintended consequence of forcing the Military Departments to consider cuts at all installations, without regard to military value," he wrote. "A better alternative is to close or realign installations with the lowest military value."
Congress repeatedly has denied the administration's BRAC requests in recent years.
Pentagon officials have said costs associated with unnecessary infrastructure could be better spent on readiness, modernization and other aspects of national security.
Federal lawmakers maintain upfront costs for BRAC are too high and worry about the impact on jobs in their district if the process were to go through.
Courtney said he expects lawmakers to deny the administration's latest BRAC request, which if approved, would start the process in 2019.
He cited lawmakers' resistance to saddling a new administration with the undertaking as one of several reasons for their likely disapproval.
The alternative, the report says in part, "is either attempting to close individual installations or making reductions to personnel and shuttering or mothballing parts of installations across the country."
A section in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act required the defense secretary to submit the report to Congress.
"What we've been getting is 2004 data. That's as much as they've been willing to share," Courtney said. "We told them we want to have a report that breaks it down by military service."
There's no mention of individual bases in the report, which provides a capacity analysis and force size projections broken down by service.
The report compares 1989 base loading data, the number of military members assigned to units at a certain installation, with 2019 base loading data.
The report comes as the Senate's subcommittee on readiness and management support prepares to consider the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
Chairwoman Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has said the committee will not give BRAC authority.
Congress last authorized a BRAC round 14 years ago.
The department initially estimated that the 2005 BRAC would save $2.3 billion and later reduced the estimate to $273 million.
Projected savings is about $4 billion annually, but the defense department won't "recoup its up-front costs until 2018," according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.
Meanwhile, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Naval Submarine Base and Naval Submarine School is underway in Connecticut.
An executive committee, led by City of Groton Mayor Marian Galbraith, has planned a series of events for Connecticut's Submarine Century with the help and input of many in the community.
The celebration is "another way to underscore the base's historic role but also military value," Courtney said.
Bob Ross, executive director of the Connecticut Office of Military Affairs, called the celebration an "incredible demonstration of community support for a military base."
The office was set up to defend the base against future BRAC rounds.
While working under starkly different circumstances, the group organizing the yearlong celebration is working with a spirit and energy similar to those of the coalition who helped to defend the base against the 2005 BRAC, acknowledged Groton Town Manager Mark Oefinger, who has been involved with both initiatives.
"Both efforts point out that the sub base is a very important aspect of the community, the fabric of southeastern Connecticut, and a major economic driver not only for Groton, but for the surrounding towns, the region and the state," Oefinger said.
There's been a "very conscious effort" by organizers to get as many people involved as possible with the yearlong celebration, including the Navy, which couldn't be "at the table" during the BRAC process, he said.