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DoD pushing Congress, communities for 2017 base closures

Feb. 7, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Mark Center
The Mark Center in Alexandria, Va., also called BRAC-133, is the new home of Washington Headquarters Service. (James J. Lee/Military Times Staf)
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The Defense Department is preparing to ask for a round of base closures in 2017 and is making the case to defense communities and lawmakers, according to Army officials

Paul Cramer, deputy assistant secretary for installations and partnerships, said the Army is also working with the rest of the Defense Department on the possibility to include a BRAC authorization in the upcoming 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It is not yet decided whether DoD will officially ask for its inclusion in the legislation, but there are indications that it will be part of the DoD budget request to be announced in March.

He said Army officials such as Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, have been meeting one-on-one with members of Congress to make the case for base closings that could significantly cut costs.

Cramer said while the Army is looking at a future end strength of 490,000 it could be forced to cut more unless it can cut costs elsewhere – such as infrastructure – to help pay for higher-priority items.

In 2004, DoD estimated it had about 25 percent excess infrastructure. The 2005 base realignment and closure process cut roughly 3 percent of that. The department saves more than $12 billion a year from the five BRAC rounds announced between 1998 and 2005 and is hoping to save more in a future consolidation.

Cramer said the Army is also working with communities around military installations to educate them on how the base closure process is the best way for the Defense Department to fairly close bases.

Andy Napoli, the assistant for BRAC in the office of the Assistant Secretary for Installations, Energy and the Environment said without a BRAC the Army – which cannot on its own close installations – would have to cut from larger bases with bigger budgets instead of shutting down bases that are no longer needed because any more cuts would close it down.

“You end up with excess capacity everywhere and the economic impact on communities will be felt one way or the other,” Cramer said.

Napoli said the BRAC process also gives the community a voice in how the property is ultimately used, instead of the service selling properties off piecemeal.

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