By Ellen Mitchell – 09/11/17 03:14 PM EDT
The top lawmakers on the Senate Armed Service Committee are looking to use the annual defense policy bill to circumvent congressional roadblocks and close unnecessary military bases.
Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) on Monday filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would establish a new Base Realignment and Closure commission to review all military installations.
If it ends up in the final version of the bill, the amendment would potentially jump start another round of base closures, something which has not happened at the Pentagon since 2005.
The legislation would require a list of potential base closures and realignments to be compiled by the Pentagon, certified by the president and then submitted to Congress by the fall of 2019. Congress would vote on passing the BRAC after a 60-day public comment period, and base closures would start by 2021.
The Pentagon had asked for a new BRAC round in its version of the NDAA, but the House denied the request.
Pentagon officials for the last five years have sought congressional authority to conduct another round of base closures but have been shot down over lawmakers fears that a BRAC would be politically damaging by targeting bases in their districts.
Officials estimate that by 2019 the Defense Department will have more than 20 percent excess capacity, a figure the Trump administration has pointed to in its desire to remove unneeded bases.
The Senate NDAA, with more than 300 amendments submitted as of Monday, has become a document where lawmakers hope they can alter the Trump administration’s controversial decisions in defense and foreign policy.
The move to have another round of base closures in 2019 is already backed by Lucian Niemeyer, the top Pentagon official in charge of military installations, and advocacy groups including Concerned Veterans for America.
“For us, it’s not just a matter of finding efficiencies, it’s a matter of improving the military value and the effectiveness and lethality of our military forces,” Niemeyer said last week.
Senate lawmakers are scheduled to move toward starting debate on the NDAA Monday evening.