February 01, 2017

By: Jordana Mishory

 

The top Democrats on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee and Armed Services Committee have introduced legislation calling for a new round of base closures and realignments to take place in 2019 and accompanying reforms to emphasize savings and ensure enhanced congressional oversight.

Co-sponsored by House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) and House Appropriations defense subcommittee Ranking Member Pete Visclosky (D-IN), along with others, the bill introduces a number of reforms to accompanying the BRAC round to counter concerns that came up during the most recent 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. “Reducing excess infrastructure capacity will allow the department to generate efficiencies and realize financial savings that can be reinvested into readiness and modernization initiatives.”

Some of the reforms include adding an extra step in the process to “allow Congress time to review the force structure plans and infrastructure assessments developed by the secretary of defense,” according to the summary. This new step would enable Congress to pass a joint resolution if lawmakers don’t agree with the assessments or force structure plan with an aim to provide enhanced congressional oversight.

The bill would also require the defense secretary to emphasize “developing recommendations that result in net-savings within five years of completion,” according to the summary. The legislation would also prohibit the defense secretary from making recommendations “that do not result in net-savings within 20 years, unless the secretary certifies that the recommendations support or enhance critical national security interests.”

The legislation also seeks to strengthen the independent commission by preventing the defense secretary from “submitting recommendations for the consolidation, closure and realignment of military infrastructure until the chairman of the independent commission certifies that the commission has adequate staff capacity to review the secretary’s recommendations,” according to the summary. The bill also calls for the recommendations to be completed one year faster than in prior rounds.

“It’s not appropriate for us to keep wasting taxpayer money maintaining excess infrastructure that the Department of Defense says it does not need,” Smith said in a statement. “I have long argued that Congress must find the courage to authorize another base realignment and closure (BRAC) round, and I look forward to discussing ways to move this process forward with my House and Senate colleagues.”