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March 17, 2005
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By Leo Shane III
Stars & Stripes, European Edition
WASHINGTON - House members angry over upcoming base closings lashed out at Air Force officials on Wednesday for the up-front costs expected and undetermined savings promised in the Base Realignment And Closure process.
The proposed 2006 defense budget includes $2.5 billion in closure costs related to the BRAC decisions, even though no bases have yet been publicly identified as scheduled to be closed. Another $5.7 billion in expenses is expected in 2007.
In addition, the 2006 budget includes about $377 million in costs associated with the 1995 BRAC process, which incensed Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii.
“This is 10 years later and the DOD is still asking for transition money to finance these savings,” he said during a House Armed Services hearing.
“It's embarrassing when I go home to have to say there's not a single base secretaries can name that needs to be closed, but there's 24 percent base capacity that has to be gotten rid of. There's a charade going on here.”
This year's process marks the fifth time since 1988 the Defense Department has looked to reduce its base holdings and costs, designed to make the military more efficient.
The list of bases affected is to be released May 16, though changes to that list could be made over the summer.
When pressed by committee members to name an Air Force base that could easily be eliminated, Air Force Secretary Peter Teets declined to pick a facility but defended the process.
“There is a straightforward, well-structured analysis going on,” he said. “In any kind of restructuring activity … it requires upfront investment to achieve annual savings.”
Teets said he has started to hear possible closure scenarios but “no decisions have been made.”
Defense officials estimate the earlier BRAC rounds have saved about $29 billion combined in reduced maintenance costs and profits from land sales.
Earlier in the week Phillip Grone, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, said the 24 percent excess capacity figure is only an estimate, and will not require that one in four bases be closed.
However, when pressed by House members, he also admitted the 24 percent figure is not a maximum either, and that the study could recommend closing a higher number of facilities as well.
Grone added that officials are taking into account the large number of servicemembers expected to return to U.S. bases from deployment abroad as military officials draw down troop totals in Europe and the Pacific arena.
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