A new Heritage Foundation analysis published last week proposes that the next several months may determine whether the Defense Department will conduct another base realignment and closing (BRAC) in the next decade.
The report, issued by the well-known conservative think tank, presents a fiscally-focused case to Pentagon leaders not to disregard the impact of another potential BRAC round on freeing up budgets and bolstering readiness.
Heritage Foundation officials in the past have advocated a new BRAC round to reduce excess military infrastructure and maximize annual defense funding.
The author, Frederico Bartels, policy analyst for defense and budgeting at the foundation, said a Pentagon report currently being produced on feasibility of a new BRAC round may be the last opportunity to propose the process for years ahead, according to Military Times.
“I think it’s the last chance of the Trump administration to make an argument for this,” he said in an interview with Military Times. “Even if he gets re-elected next year, I think it will be hard to go back and make the case if they’re unsuccessful this time.”
Bartels said Pentagon leaders have explored another BRAC in recent years but have been unsuccessful in convincing lawmakers, according to the report.
The fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act does order a new DOD infrastructure capacity report which is due next February. Defense officials could make a case in the report for additional closures as similar recent DOD reports have shown excess capacity of between 19 and 22%, according to the report.
“The department needs to make the case for a new round of BRAC based on two key tenets: potential savings and the National Defense Strategy,” Bartels wrote in the report. “A new BRAC round could save $2 billion by reducing unneeded infrastructure. Additionally, a new round of BRAC would permit the department to assess its infrastructure against the threats outlined by the National Defense Strategy, providing a holistic look at all of the infrastructure.”
The report warns that identifying potential locations will only increase political tension and proposes DOD publicly acknowledge problems with the 2005 BRAC to regain congressional support.
The Pentagon convened six base BRAC Commissions between 1988 and 2005, shuttering hundreds of military installations and turning those properties over to state and local municipalities.
The last BRAC round, more than a decade ago, was particularly challenging as DOD consolidated numerous installations into joint bases and massively altered force structure to modernize the military.
Cost reductions from that round were significantly below projections, and since then lawmakers have been strongly opposed to any new BRAC rounds.