Base Closures Could Help Stretch Defense Dollars

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Some lawmakers are chipping away at their colleagues’ opposition to a badly needed new round of military base realignment and closures.

Members of the House Appropriations Committee included language in the Military Construction/Veterans Administration funding bill that asks the Pentagon to identify excess facilities that could be closed by a future Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). The House passed the $76.1 billion bill in a 255-163 vote Thursday.

The bill requires the Secretary of Defense to certify whether or not a new round of closures is needed. But in a voice vote, the House also adopted an amendment that would prohibit spending to actually start such a round.

Defense officials have previously estimated that 30 percent of their facilities are in excess of current needs, putting a strain on the defense budget. The last round of base closures, however, was in 2005.

Since then Congress has repeatedly rejected another BRAC round. But Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, plans to introduce legislation this year to begin a new round.

While lawmakers continue to debate how much defense spending is needed to protect the country’s security, the focus on excess facilities is a reminder that there are multiple opportunities for savings.

External links:
Report on House Military Construction/VA Bill
Back in BRAC: Advocates Say It’s Been Too Long (Roll Call)
Panel Urges Overhaul of Future Military Benefits (Concord Coalition)

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