Dem looks to allow Pentagon to close bases in defense bill

The ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee plans to file an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would allow the Pentagon to close bases in the United States.

Rep. Adam Smith’s (D-Wash.) amendment would “allow the department to consolidate, close and realignment [sic] military installations in the United States, which would allow the department to realize efficiencies and savings that could be reinvested into critical military readiness and modernization accounts,” according to a summary of the amendment.

{mosads}Right now, the 2017 National Defense Authorization would explicitly prohibit a new round of what’s known as Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

The Pentagon recently submitted a report to Congress arguing for another BRAC, saying it will have 22 percent excess capacity by 2019.

Smith, who has supported BRAC, said the report showed the need for new closures.

“In this current budget environment, rather than waste money on excess infrastructure, we need to locate potential efficiencies and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely to enhance the military’s capacity to meet our current and future national security challenges,” he said in a written statement after the report’s release.

The last round of BRAC was in 2005. Lawmakers have repeatedly denied requests for another round because of the potential for negative economic effects on the communities around bases, making the prospect politically unpopular.

Under Smith’s amendment, the Pentagon would have to submit a report to Congress on its projections on force structure 20 years out, an inventory of military infrastructure and the infrastructure capacity needed to support the 20-year force structure. The comptroller general would need to make a similar report.

The Defense secretary would also need to certify that it’s necessary to close, consolidate or realign bases and that there would be a net savings within five years.

Congress would then have 90 days to review the report and certification and could block the Pentagon from moving forward within that time.

If Congress doesn’t block the Pentagon after 90 days, the Pentagon could then make recommendations on which bases to close based on military value and net savings, among other criteria.

An independent commission would then review the recommendations and make its own recommendations to the president, who would then report the findings to Congress. Congress would then have 45 days to block the process from moving forward.

The amendment’s summary includes a slew of differences from the 2005 BRAC, such as providing Congress a chance to block the process after the Pentagon’s report and placing emphasis on cost savings after five years instead of 20.

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