Testimony Highlights BRAC Success

The 19-page testimony on DOD’s fiscal 2016 budget request that Secretary Ashton Carter submitted to two congressional committees last week argued for a BRAC round in 2017, but it also included a nod to several communities that have successfully recovered from a base closure. The justification for a new round is clear, Carter says. “Simply put, we have more bases in more places than we need. We estimate DOD has about 25 percent more infrastructure capacity than necessary,” according to his written testimony. “We must be permitted to divest surplus infrastructure as we reduce and renew force structure. With projected recurring savings from a new BRAC round totaling some $2 billion a year, it would be irresponsible to cut tooth without also cutting tail,” Carter states. But, a closure needn’t devastate a local economy, he says. “It`s important to remember that BRAC is often an opportunity to be seized. Communities have shown that BRAC is ultimately what you make of it, and there are plenty of places that have emerged from it stronger than they were before,” Carter states. He then cites three success stories from previous BRAC rounds. Following the closure of Fort Benjamin Harrison in 1996, Lawrence, Ind., has replaced all of the jobs lost by creating an enterprise zone, community college, recreational facilities and commercial sites. In the wake of the shuttering of the Charleston Naval Complex in 1993, Charleston, S.C., has become the home to more than 80 new industrial and federal agency tenants. “The former naval base is now producing millions of dollars’ worth of goods that are exported to Europe, Africa and the Middle East,” he states. The redevelopment effort at the former Mather AFB in Sacramento County, Calif., has invested $400 million and created more than 6,500 jobs, over six times the number of jobs lost when the base closed in 1993. The Pentagon, however, may not be able to wait to gain lawmakers’ approval to close additional bases if Congress does not provide the department adequate relief from the Budget Control Act spending caps, Carter warns at the end of his testimony. Under that scenario, everything else is on the table. “We could be forced to consider all means of shedding excess infrastructure, not just working within the congressional BRAC process. We could be forced to look at significant force structure cuts, not just trimming around the edges. We could be forced to ask our military to do — and be prepared to do — significantly less than what we have traditionally expected, and required of it,” he says.