Attack on BRAC

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA)

Have we seen the last of BRAC? Although the Defense Department has used the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process five times within the past 15 years, and although President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have proposed sixth and seventh rounds of BRAC commissions (in 2013 and 2015)—and have said that these efforts will be vital to cutting infrastructure costs in response to tighter defense budgets—it’s beginning to look like Congress will make sure those rounds never take place.

Democrats and Republicans in both chambers have been saying for months that they oppose reactivating the BRAC process. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee panel that has jurisdiction over military installations, has said she is willing to allow the closing of U.S. military bases overseas, but not domestic bases.  “There is one area where there is absolutely no room for compromise this year, and that is BRAC,” said McCaskill at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support subcommittee on March 21.

The House Armed Services Committee, meeting yesterday (Wednesday, May 9) to discuss details of its version of the 2013 defense budget, firmly rejected the administration’s call for two new rounds of BRAC and voted to add a provision to the 2013 defense authorization bill that would specifically bar spending any money next year even “to propose, plan for or execute” the BRAC process. (In other words, don’t even think about it.) Representative Rob Wittman (R-Va.), who proposed the amendment, said that the five previous rounds of base closings have demonstrated that the process has upfront costs, and that base closings “could cost billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.” It thus appears unlikely that any final budget bill will include new BRAC commissions.