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Review Of Natl Defense Act

Congressman McClintock offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to remove the prohibition on Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) reviews. Stating:

Our current defense spending is about where it was at the peak of the Reagan defense buildup after adjusting for inflation.  It is about the same as the next eight most powerful military forces on the planet COMBINED – and six of those eight are already our allies.  The President has proposed adding $54 billion to this.  That’s the equivalent of adding more than the entire military establishment of Great Britain.

Yet we are told – and I do not doubt – that much of our military force is ill equipped and unready for combat.  If that is the case, it is not a fiscal problem; it is a management problem.  We seem to care HOW MUCH money is being spent, but not HOW it is being spent.  That is a catastrophic failure of Congressional oversight.

In recent years, the Pentagon has warned that its infrastructure is 22 percent bigger than necessary.   It has asked Congress for another round of Base Realignment and Closure reviews.

Just last month, Secretary Mattis urged resumption of BRAC.  He believes it will save $2 billion a year – 20 billion over ten years.  That’s enough money to buy 120 F/A-18 Super Hornets or 300 more AH-64 Apache helicopters or four Virginia-Class submarines – if only Congress would get out of the way and allow unneeded bases to close.

The Pentagon has authority to close or consolidate bases on foreign soil, but in the NDAA, Congress blocks its authority to close or consolidate unnecessary bases on our own soil.

My amendment removes the NDAA’s prohibition on this needed process and allows BRAC to move forward, as the President has requested.

The Statement of Administration policy is clear: (quote) “While the bill contains many promising reforms, it fails to authorize a new Base Realignment and Closure round, which would result in substantial recurring savings and allow DOD to align infrastructure with force reduction.”

I have heard three objections.

First, we’re told that upfront costs of consolidation can be high.  But the results are now in: the first four BRAC rounds are now saving $7 billion a year.

Second, we’re told local economies depend on these bases.  But experience tells us that communities rapidly recover by freeing these assets for more productive use.

Third, we’re told to wait until we’ve finished expanding our forces.  But the excess capacity estimate already assumes force expansion and a new round of BRAC will only wring out a small portion of the overcapacity.

When we squander billions of defense dollars keeping obsolete military bases open to satisfy congressional constituencies, we directly rob our military forces of the resources we are reminded they need.

There’s an old saying that you can’t fill a broken bucket by pouring more water in it.  At some point, you have to fix the bucket.  That’s our responsibility.  We need to take it more seriously.