Some lawmakers growing more receptive to BRAC

Tuesday - 8/19/2014, 10:39am EDT

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Despite an initial reluctance from lawmakers to authorize the Defense Department to conduct a new round of Base Realignment and Closure, some members of Congress are becoming more receptive to the idea.

The Army plans to reduce its force to 490,000 by the end of fiscal 2015. But Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, says shrinking forces won't be enough to match sequestration-level budgets.

"As we're being asked to shrink the size of the Army in terms of manpower, we need to shrink the size of the Army in terms of bases," Hammack said on In Depth on Francis Rose. "We can't reduce our operating costs without reducing our footprint."

The Army's average cost for operating infrastructure is about $3 per square foot. Through a macro analysis, the service determined that its current infrastructure is 18 percent more than necessary to support a force size of 490,000. The Army estimates that the 18 percent excess infrastructure amounts to $500 million in excess costs.

Hammack says the next step is a micro analysis that reveals which specific bases can be consolidated.

"Unfortunately, we can't do that level of analysis without authorization from Congress," she said.

A number of lawmakers are hesitant to authorize BRAC because of the previous round in 2005. During the restructuring, DoD's costs spiked initially but saved the department millions in the long run.

"When the Army shrinks, we are going to have holes — sort of like Swiss cheese on our bases," Hammack said. "You will have under-utilized or un-utilized buildings that could be of benefit elsewhere."

Under the Army's jurisdiction, the unused infrastructure presents a burden on taxpayers. But if the service closes some of its facilities, the buildings can provide value to surrounding communities.

Hammack says a number of state and local governors, as well as congressmen, are expressing support for BRAC and recognizing the potential advantages.

"We have to remind people that yes, there might be a dip for a period of time, but there are positives there," Hammack said.

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