June 20, 2017

By: Rebecca Kheel

A House Armed Services Committee subpanel is silent on the issue of future base closures, a committee aide said Tuesday.

“This does not provide for a [Base Realignment and Closure] round,” the aide said of the Readiness Subcommittee’s portion of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

It’s unclear whether that means that whole bill will be silent on the issue or if what’s known as the “chairman’s mark,” in which more controversial provisions are usually included, will address base closures.

Past NDAAs have explicitly banned what’s known as Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), so staying silent in the whole bill would represent a shift for the committee.

Pressed repeatedly by reporters on the issue, the aide would only repeat that there’s nothing in the Readiness Subcommittee’s portion of the bill about it.

“You don’t see anything in the Readiness mark on that,” the aide said.

The Trump administration has requested Congress authorize BRAC, saying the Pentagon has about 20 percent excess infrastructure capacity. A BRAC round could save an estimated $2 billion annually by 2027, the administration says.

But Pentagon leaders have for years requested a new round of BRAC as a way to save money, while Congress has repeatedly prohibited it.

Lawmakers worry about the economic effects of the closures on their communities, as well as the upfront costs of a BRAC outweighing future savings.

While steering clear of BRAC, the readiness portion of the NDAA requires a slew of reports from the Pentagon.

One report would have to look at unit-level training for “full spectrum” readiness, or a unit’s readiness to fight a country like Russia or China as opposed to conducting counterinsurgency operations.

The Pentagon would also have to report on training for U.S. forces in Europe, as rotational forces are sent to new countries such as the Baltic states.

The Defense secretary would also have to brief the committee on his plans to expedite security clearances, which has been an issue for industry and within government.

“There’s other techniques particularly that came to us some from industry and some from members more common sense ways to improve it. Some of the suggestions were within the department sometimes if you go from agency to agency you need another clearance, to make that so you don’t have to do that,” the aide said. “As he’s developing his plans, consider these things and come back and talk to us about those.”