Lawmaker Skeptical BRAC Will be Approved

WARNER ROBINS -- A new request for a Base Realignment and Closure Commission isn't likely to gain traction in Congress, 8th District U.S. Rep. Austin Scott said Thursday.

Scott serves on the House Armed Services Committee, which would have to approve it.

"I haven't heard any support from anybody on the committee on BRAC," he said.

He made the comment in a telephone interview shortly after Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey appeared before the committee to discuss the military's fiscal 2014 budget request. The budget calls for a BRAC in 2015.

Scott, R-Ashburn, questioned estimates that the Department of Defense has at least 20 percent more infrastructure than it needs, which is the primary basis for the BRAC request.

"If they know where that overage is, then they need to tell us what it is," he said.

"We have not seen the evidence of that, and I do not believe we have excess capacity."

However, even as he expressed skepticism a BRAC would be approved, Scott warned the Robins Air Force Base community should be ready.

"We need to make sure we are doing everything we can that we as a base are in the best possible position to grow our workload," he said.

He said he agrees with recent comments by retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, president of the 21st Century Partnership, that relations between union and management at Robins must be improved.

"The friction with union leadership is a problem, and it needs to be resolved for us to get new workload," he said.

President Barack Obama previously asked for a BRAC for 2013 and 2015, but Congress didn't go along.

The administration may be more serious this time because the budget includes $2.4 billion to pay for the costs of implementing BRAC. The previous request did not come with money budgeted for BRAC.

Hagel mentioned excess infrastructure while discussing the BRAC request before the Armed Services Committee.

"In order to maintain balance and readiness, the Department of Defense must be able to eliminate excess infrastructure as it reduces force structure," he said, according to a copy of his remarks. "The Department of Defense has been shedding infrastructure in Europe for several years, and we are undertaking a review of our European footprint this year, but we also need to look at our domestic footprint."

The budget request calls for $527 billion in military spending in fiscal 2014, plus $88.5 billion for funding operations in Afghanistan. Hagel said the budget would replace sequestration with cuts that would occur in future years, allowing the military more time to plan for the reductions.

Scott said that is an improvement over the immediate automatic cuts triggered by sequestration, but he still does not agree with the cuts that would ultimately occur. He favors allowing base commanders flexibility in controlling costs.

Scott also noted the budget projects $601 billion for the military in 2020, while interest on the debt would cost $609 billion. This year, he said, debt interest will cost $223 billion.

"We will be paying more on the net interest on the national debt than we would be paying on national defense," he said.

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