The White House issued a response to Congress’ annual defense budget bill Friday, bashing legislators for not authorizing a new round of base closures.
In a statement, the White House expressed disappointment at the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act for spurning administration suggestions by not including a new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round proposed by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed. The Pentagon, which has backed such a move, believes a BRAC round in 2021 would save an extra $2 billion per year, as there is an estimated 22 percent excess capacity.
“The Administration strongly objects to section 2702 and strongly urges Congress to provide BRAC authorization, as requested, so that DOD can ensure it is not wasting resources on unneeded infrastructure,” the White House said.
“The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to address its concerns, a number of which are outlined in more detail below,” the White House added. “The Administration also looks forward to reviewing the classified annex and working with the Congress to address its concerns about the bill provisions regarding classified programs.”
Reed’s proposal is already somewhat of a compromise, as it gives Congress control over more of the BRAC process than usual. Part of the reason that Congress is petrified at the prospect of base closures is because base closures are politically unpopular, as they provide a lot of local employment.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has been behind the strong push from the DOD side for a BRAC round, according to Lucian Niemeyer, assistant defense secretary for energy, installations and environment.
“From my perspective, working for him, the BRAC process offers us the opportunity to address readiness by providing our forces the best possible ranges and installations for them to be stationed at,” Niemeyer said Tuesday at a Heritage Foundation forum.
Niemeyer emphasized that the DOD does not have an existing list of bases to be closed and that a full analysis won’t be performed until the measure in the bill is passed.
“Until we get an authorization there will be no analysis … the notion that there is a list of base closures running around the Department of Defense is absolutely false,” Niemeyer said.
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