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HASC amendment would prohibit another BRAC round

By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 9, 2012

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers emphatically refused Pentagon requests for another round of base closures, including language in the annual defense authorization bill forbidding any such move.

The amendment — which prohibits defense officials from using fiscal 2013 funds to “propose, plan for or execute an additional BRAC round” — is the latest opposition to the base-closure plan, which was floated earlier this year as a possible long-term cost-saving and force-restructuring measure.

The House Armed Services Committee’s full defense authorization proposal is expected to be passed late Wednesday night, then move onto the full House later this month.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee said the short-term costs of base closures and the potential detrimental impact on local communities made the proposal impractical.

A number of Democrats expressed concerns that the amendment language would also limit the Pentagon’s future budget-planning exercises, leading to a 44-18 vote on the amendment. But even those who opposed the legislative move said they did not support a BRAC round in 2013.

Senate officials have voiced similar opposition to base closings in recent weeks, even as military officials have said it will be fiscally necessary.

Pentagon officials have insisted that they may close some facilities outside of a formal BRAC process.

According to Government Accountability Office researchers, the last BRAC round in 2005 cost more than $35 billion to execute and taxpayers won’t see any savings until 2018. The previous four base-closing rounds — in 1988, 1991, 1993, and 1995 — generated savings much quicker, to date totaling more than $100 billion.

But House members said defense officials have offered no reliable estimates on how much a new round of base closures might save, making supporting the idea impossible.

Pentagon officials have outlined more than $400 billion in defense spending cuts over the next decade to help balance the federal budget, but could face $500 billion more if lawmakers can’t find compromise in coming months on pending automatic budget costs.

shanel@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @LeoShane

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