July 12, 2017

By: Travis Tritten

The White House has said it “strongly objects” to a House proposal that keeps the military from closing billions of dollars worth of unused facilities around the country in 2018.

The pushback came from the Office of Management and Budget in a statement Tuesday on the House’s annual defense policy bill, which was passed by committee late last month and now is headed toward a floor vote this week.

The Armed Services Committee included a section in the bill that bars the Defense Department from shuttering any facilities as part of the Base Realignment and Closure program, or BRAC.

The White House “strongly urges Congress to provide BRAC authorization as requested so that DOD can ensure it is not wasting scarce resources on unneeded infrastructure,” the Office of Management and Budget wrote in its assessment of the National Defense Authorization Act, a massive piece of annual legislation that sets military policy and priorities.

The Defense Department has estimated it could save $2 billion annually by closing properties it no longer uses or needs, and use the money on warfighting capabilities.

The last BRAC round occurred in 2005 and House lawmakers have been loath to authorize a new round of closures since then because military facilities often underpin the economy in many of their districts.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the Armed Services chairman, has said BRAC closures often require significant upfront funding from Congress and often takes years to pay off.

But the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Smith, of Washington, supports closing the excess properties and has proposed an amendment to the NDAA.

Smith’s amendment could get a vote when the NDAA moves to the House floor for a vote.