FEDweek

Early Draft of DoD Budget Bill Would Deny Base Closings Request

The initial version of the DoD budget being drafted in the House would reject the Pentagon’s request to conduct another round of base closings and consolidations, although a long process is ahead before the issue is settled.

Language used as a starting point by a subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee “does not provide for an additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round,” according to a summary. A preliminary version of the bill (HR-2810) introduced by the committee’s leadership meanwhile made no mention of another base closings round, although that is designed only as a placeholder.

The panel’s subcommittees have started work on their portions of the annual DoD authorization bill, which will be pieced together and voted on by the full committee, likely next week. The bill commonly reaches the House floor shortly afterward, and attention then shifts to the Senate.

The Pentagon has asked for authority to conduct a base closings round in 2021–initial work would start long before that–on grounds that it can no longer afford to carry what it calculates as about 20 percent excess capacity. It has estimated that the result would include eliminating about 26,000 civilian jobs, likely mostly in the Army and Air Force. Many thousands more positions likely would be transferred–some locally, others not.

The House traditionally has been opposed to conducting another round of base closings although the Senate has been more open to one, with the result that Congress has rejected a series of similar requests in recent years.

Meanwhile, a letter backing the DoD proposal has been sent to Congress, signed by 45 members of think tanks and government oversight groups from across the political spectrum. They wrote that even if a defense buildup on the scale that President Trump has advocated occurs, DoD still would have capacity beyond the slight excess it needs to remain flexible. “BRAC has proven to be a fair and efficient process for making the difficult but necessary decisions related to the configuration of our military’s infrastructure,” they wrote.

They also suggested that the outcome could amount to a test for members of Congress who criticize the government as inefficient.