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Pentagon certifies need for base closures

The Defense Department should start closing military bases again next year because it has nearly 25 percent more infrastructure than it needs, Pentagon officials concluded in a report released Tuesday afternoon.

The Defense Department should start closing or realigning military bases again next year because it has nearly 25 percent more infrastructure than it needs, Pentagon officials concluded in a report released Tuesday afternoon.

The report, required by Congress, officially certifies the Pentagon's conclusion that a new round of the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process is needed in 2005.

Early next year, an independent, nine-member commission will weigh Defense Department plans for closing bases and make final recommendations to Congress and the president. By the fall of 2005, lawmakers and the White House must accept or reject the commission's list in its entirety. The law requires all bases designated as unnecessary to be realigned or shut down no later than 2011.

"Without the flexibility of the BRAC process, the department is substantially hamstrung from realigning its forces and bases to both respond to and encourage further innovations to sharpen our military capability against an agile threat," Defense officials concluded in the untitled report, which was sent to Congress Tuesday.

The report found 24 percent excess capacity across the military. More specifically, the Army has 29 percent, the Air Force 24 percent, the Navy 21 percent and the Defense Logistics Agency 17 percent, according to the report.

No bases were specifically cited, but Defense officials did break down excess capacity by type of work. Among the largest areas of reported excess were: Army research, testing, development and evaluation facilities and laboratories (62 percent); Navy inventory control facilities (60 percent); Air Force classroom training space (45 percent); and Defense Logistics Agency distribution depots (20 percent).

The report predicted that savings from closing or realigning bases would be "substantial." If 12 percent of bases are closed or realigned, Defense would save $3 billion between 2006 and 2011 and $5 billion annually thereafter, Pentagon officials said. If 20 percent of bases are closed or realigned, Defense would save $5 billion between 2006 and 2011 and $8 billion annually thereafter, the report concluded.

The House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee will question Defense officials about the report at a hearing on Thursday. Some lawmakers, including Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, have called for delaying the 2005 BRAC round. Kerry has said the base-closing process should be suspended because it is ideologically driven, while Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, has pledged to introduce legislation delaying BRAC until 2007 because of increased military commitments around the globe.

"If the ideology is saving the taxpayers' money...then I am guilty as charged," said Raymond DuBois, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment. He says the goal of BRAC is to eliminate the military's Cold War infrastructure, and delaying the next BRAC round would waste money and leave military commanders without the infrastructure required for today's technology-driven and more agile forces.