Defense doesn’t need Congress’ blessing to close bases

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., expresses concern another BRAC round could hurt military preparedness. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., expresses concern another BRAC round could hurt military preparedness. Lawrence Jackson/AP file photo

If Congress fails to approve the Obama administration’s request for a second round of military base closures, then the Pentagon will close them through a process more detrimental to local communities, Defense Department officials told House lawmakers this week.

The warning came in response to widespread criticism of the administration’s recent proposal for another Base Closure and Realignment Commission process. During a Thursday hearing, members of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee argued further base closings would do little to save money and could leave the military inadequately prepared to meet future threats.

“If the administration presumes that a reduced force structure is required to meet our future security challenges, and cites this as the principal reason for this BRAC request, I must move to vigorously oppose another round of BRAC,” subcommittee chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., said during the hearing.

The last BRAC round began in 2005 and affected 800 military installations. Many of the moves, including federal offices, are ongoing. The Government Accountability Office has estimated the restructuring efforts cost $35 billion.

Dorothy Ryan, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment, said lawmakers should not use the 2005 BRAC round as a basis for evaluating the current proposal. The 2005 closures were driven by “the urgency of war,” with the transportation of installations and not cost savings as their primary purpose, Ryan said.

“How can we afford another BRAC round given that the 2005 round doesn’t pay off until 2015? That’s an eminently fair question,” she said.

Base closures in the 1990s are a better comparison because they were conducted with cost savings in mind, she said. The BRAC rounds in 1988 and 1991, however, were harder than necessary on the affected communities, she added. The policy at the time made the process of rebuilding disposed-of property “slow, bureaucratic and penny-pinching,” she said.

The Pentagon must go back to that process if Congress does not approve a new round under the more community-friendly 2005 rules, according to Ryan.

“One reason we want to avoid that approach is that, if [Defense] acts outside of the BRAC process, the department is severely constrained in what it can do to help local communities,” Ryan said.

The Pentagon’s top brass has said publicly that another round of BRAC is not ideal, but necessary as the department tries to slash $487 billion from its budget over 10 years.

“While some may view our request for a round in 2013 as aggressive, the magnitude of the cuts we are making in force structure means we simply can’t wait,” Ryan told lawmakers.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.