Washington D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith will offer an amendment to the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act designed to allow the Department of Defense to find important savings that can be applied to urgent readiness and training requirements yet distinguish it from the previous round in important ways.
“Given that the last BRAC round transformed more than it closed and has cost more and saved less than original estimates, members of Congress have justifiable reservations about giving the Department of Defense authority to conduct another round. But this should be a congressionally led process. We have a stake in the outcome,” said Ranking Member Smith. “With these concerns in mind, this legislation will create a transparent, deliberative, and independent process. In order to protect military readiness and other important programs, Congress should provide authority for the next BRAC round and should adopt these reforms to strengthen the process and avoid the problems that plagued the previous round.”
A New BRAC Process
In light of current budget conditions, DoD cannot afford another “transformation” BRAC similar to the 2005 round. The next BRAC must be focused on generating savings. To ensure this, the proposal requires the Secretary of Defense to certify to Congress that the primary objective of a new BRAC round would be to eliminate excess infrastructure and reconfigure the remaining infrastructure to maximize efficiency. In addition, any realignments or changes to infrastructure must yield net savings within five years of completing the action, savings that could be applied to other readiness requirements sooner.
To control cost and scope, the proposal would require DoD to submit master plans for each recommendation transmitted to the independent BRAC commission. These master plans would include the costs, scope, and timing of each construction activity. As the commission adjusts recommendations, the master plans would also be adjusted. Once a closure or realignment is approved, the master plan associated with each closure or realignment would be the binding authority for expending funds from the BRAC account. Any proposal to carry out a construction activity not included in the master plan would require a specific authorization from Congress.
The proposal would strengthen the independent commission and improve transparency in the BRAC process. To do this, the commission would be required to certify that it has sufficient staff to review the Secretary of Defense’s recommendations, and additional time to consider public comments, receive testimony, and conduct additional site visits. In addition, the information used by the Secretary of Defense to develop recommendations would be made easily available to the public for review, including the unclassified assessment data on the condition of facilities and infrastructure, the environmental baseline of known contamination and remediation activities, and the standard rules used to calculate annual recurring savings.
“The Department of Defense estimates it has excess infrastructure capacity, and this excess takes money away from training, maintenance, and operations. In the current budget environment, where important programs are being cut across the board, this is a waste of scare resources,” continued Smith.