The process for shedding excess military infrastructure is unlike any other in government.
To close most major installations, the Defense Department must first request a formal base realignment and closure round — a request that typically gets rejected at least once by lawmakers.
Once Congress does authorize a BRAC, Defense Department officials begin a lengthy review of their infrastructure and draft a list of recommended base closures. An independent commission reviews the recommendations — a monthslong process that involves base tours and lengthy public hearings — and writes its own list of recommended base closures and realignments.
The commission’s report then goes to the president, who must either forward the report to Congress or return it to the commission for further evaluation. Once the report goes to Capitol Hill, Congress has 45 days to enact a joint resolution to reject the report in full, or the report becomes law.
The base-closure process may be challenging and arduous, but, if done correctly, closing installations can be a major money-saver for the Defense Department.
Officials estimate that the five previous BRAC rounds saved the Pentagon $12 billion annually, a hefty sum for a department struggling to pay for all it says it needs.
Of all the military services, the Air Force, which recommended shuttering several installations in 2005 that the closure commission rejected, has been the most vocal about needing to act. Since that last round of closures, the Air Force has cut the size of its fleet by 500 aircraft. Now, service officials are struggling with the costly imbalance of having too few aircraft scattered around too many bases.
But the Army, which is cutting tens of thousands of soldiers from its payroll over the next several years, also has plenty of infrastructure the smaller force simply does not need.
Pentagon comptroller Robert F. Hale told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 5 that failure to authorize a BRAC round will cost the department $2 billion a year.
“We need your help on this one,” he said.