Army, Air Force chiefs tell Congress to close military bases, end sequestration

Vice chiefs of staff for the U.S. Army and Air Force testified in front of the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday, each expressing support for the closure and reorganization of military bases to free up appropriated funds for more pressing infrastructure upgrades.

Gens. Daniel Allyn and Stephen Wilson told the congressional panel each of their respective branches have about 25 percent housing facility overcapacity and a combined $36 billion in needed maintenance that has been delayed since 2011 due to sequestration.

The process of shutting down forts, encampments and other unnecessary infrastructure is known as Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), now a prohibited act of Congress which last occurred in 2005. According to Gen. Allyn, the Army now saves $1 billion per year due to the decade-old BRAC.

The Pentagon had requested $4 million for the fiscal year 2017 budget to outline a BRAC plan which would be executed in 2019, but Congress lifted the provision from the final draft.

“In today’s budget environment, it makes sense to invest wisely, so BRAC would help us make smart investments to prepare for the future,” Gen. Wilson told the committee.

While Marine Corps assistant commandant Glenn Walters said his branch of the military is “about right” in terms of infrastructure funding allocation, all four representatives at Tuesday’s hearing asked the Senate panel to do away with the 2011 Budget Control Act, which is set go back into full-effect in fiscal year 2018.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has expressed a willingness to support a new BRAC and has repeatedly condemned sequestration for its limits on military spending which the Arizona Republican argues endangers the lives of on-the-ground soldiers and puts national security at risk.

“I think we have to examine all of the options that we have to make our military, our defense at the lowest possible cost to the American taxpayers,” McCain said after a Jan. 24 committee hearing. “Right now we do have excess properties and facilities.”

After Sen. McCain’s comments, ranking House Armed Services Committee member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) reintroduced legislation to legalize the base closure process once again.

According to the latest Pentagon data, there are currently 513 operating military bases in the U.S., including 294 for active duty and 189 for National Guard personnel.  Since 1990, five rounds of BRAC have been completed, closing a total of 350 domestic facilities.

 

[Washington Examiner] [The Hill] [RT America]