The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) signed on to a letter to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees urging members of Congress to authorize a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round to close unnecessary military infrastructure. The letter, led by the Cato Institute, included over 25 defense experts from across the political spectrum who argued that without a BRAC, crucial funds are allocated away from more productive programs and “tens of billions of taxpayers’ dollars” will be wasted. Previous BRAC rounds were supported by both Republican and Democratic presidents, and both President Obama and Trump have called for another round. Congressional support, however, has not always been so strong.
The letter addressed two major concerns held by Members of Congress who oppose another BRAC: how communities will be affected by base closures, and the overall cost of implementation. Past evidence gathered by the Pentagon’s Office of Economic Adjustment revealed that communities not only recovered from lost defense jobs, they also broke free from reliance on government-created jobs by diversifying their economies. The Association of Defense Communities found that base closures benefited communities in Philadelphia, Crystal City, Virginia, and Devens, Massachusetts. According to Chris Preble of the Cato Institute, the Presidio in San Francisco is another example of a community successfully adapting after a base closure, turning a “federal government liability to a national asset.” In 2013, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the majority of communities impacted by the 2005 BRAC round—often cited by lawmakers as the main reason to be wary of another round—had lower unemployment rates than the national average and higher real per capita income growth.
Cost savings for previous BRAC rounds have been significant. In March 2016, the Department of Defense concluded that to this day, four previous BRAC rounds continue to create over $13 billion in savings each year. The DoD estimates that another BRAC round would save an additional $2 billion per year
Delaying BRAC, on the other hand, could pose real harms to the military and local communities. “The military has been forced to allocate resources away from the training and equipping of our soldiers, and toward maintaining unneeded and unwanted infrastructure,” we stated in our letter. “Local communities have been deprived of the support that BRAC would provide, and have been denied access to property that could be put to productive use.”
Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees respectively, pledged last year to “root out and eliminate wasteful spending in the Department of Defense and to redirect saving toward the urgent needs of our warfighters.” Now is the time to fulfill that promise and reduce unnecessary spending in the military.