February 08, 2017

By: Courtney Albon

As top Democratic lawmakers call for a new round of base realignments and closures, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said Tuesday he supports the effort, pointing to a 25 percent excess in base capacity across the service.

“We think that in today’s budget environment, it makes sense to invest wisely,” Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee in a Feb. 7 hearing. “So BRAC would help us to do smart investments at the bases while preparing for the future. We can take the money we’re spending on excess infrastructure and put that money toward solving some of our financial fiscal problems.”

Wilson said the service has a $25 billion backlog of base modernization projects that could be reallocated toward pressing maintenance needs if the service were given the authority to close excess bases.

“We have lots of places — whether it be dorms, childcare, education centers, gymnasiums — that are not where they need to be in terms of facilities, but yet we maintain those facilities across too many bases and we think we could reduce some of that,” he added.

Leading Democrats in the House and Senate introduced a bill last month that supports another BRAC round and seeks to address concerns that arose after the last round in 2005.

“The legislation would allow the Department of Defense to make targeted reductions to excess infrastructure capacity, while maintaining sufficient capacity to support contingencies and potential force structure growth in the future,” according to the legislation summary released by the lawmakers.

Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU) acknowledged during the hearing — which largely focused on the need for additional funds to support near-term readiness shortfalls across the military services — that DOD has been asking for a BRAC for years in order to reduce the “drain” of excess infrastructure on operations and maintenance budgets, which she noted has a direct effect on readiness.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said that while BRAC is “a hot potato” for the committee, it may be a smart way to address current funding woes.

“No one wants to see bases closed,” she said. “But we have a certain pot of money and we’ve got to use it smartly. We’re spending more money than Russia and China combined on our military and I’d suggest that there’s got to be a smarter way that we do it.”