A top Defense official said the department is already hearing that its request is doomed.
By Jordain Carney
The Obama administration isn’t dropping its 2015 defense budget until next week, but one provision in it already appears doomed: a push to relocate or close military bases.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday outlined the Defense Department’s budget request for the coming fiscal year, asking Congress to approve another round of base realignment and closure in 2017.
But Pentagon officials are already hearing that the request would be “dead on arrival on Capitol Hill,” acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox said Tuesday at a defense budget conference in Washington.
The last round of BRAC, which occurred in 2005, overshot initial cost projections by approximately $14 billion, and in a time of fiscal austerity members of Congress are wary of trying again.
Fox acknowledged that “nobody looks forward to closing bases or facilities,” and it wouldn’t be the first time members have blocked the Pentagon. Defense officials included a request in its past two budget requests, only to be shot down.
Despite Congress’s reluctance, 91 percent of National Journal’s Security Insiders said earlier this month that Congress needs to allow the Pentagon to close military bases.
But voting to close bases also has a P.R.-angle for members of Congress—who while largely voting to support the smaller budget numbers— don’t want to be responsible for closing bases, and costing jobs, in their own districts and states.
DOD officials believe they have approximately 25 percent more bases than they need for the force reductions the military is undergoing—both in connection to the budget and separately, Fox said.
The savings the Defense Department hopes to achieve through another BRAC round will be included in the soon-to-be-released budget, Fox noted, but added that it “doesn’t show a lot of the long-term savings that we hope to get.”