Despite action on the National Defense Authorization Act, the threat of sequestration and military spending cuts remain. Missions are being scaled back, force numbers are declining, and communities, states and regions that have long-served as proud homes to our installations continue to take the economic hits.
The impact on America’s defense communities can be devastating — tax revenues decline, small businesses suffer, departing service members and their families move away and home values drop. And aging infrastructure may soon sit empty on mothballed bases.
Almost 20 percent of Army infrastructure was considered “excess” in fiscal 2013 — even before the Army began its force drawdown. The Air Force has said about 30 percent of its infrastructure is excess.
Because of gridlock on Capitol Hill, we have arrived at a crossroads for our installations and the communities that support them.
The current paths forward are filled with challenges. In one direction is the status quo — sequestration, continued deadlock, death by a thousand cuts, the hollowing out of bases and economic ruin for communities.
In another direction is the Base Realignment and Closure process, a painful process that doesn’t solve every problem but begins to answer tough questions about where we are headed.
These two paths are leading us to an uncertain future for military installations. Instead of planning for the base of the future and paving a pathway to get there, we are letting the inertia of political indecision guide our strategy.
As communities, states and industry partners who support our military bases and those who serve them, we know there is a better way.
Congress and the Department of Defense must be willing to make strategic decisions, even tough ones, to ensure our military infrastructure is ready to meet the threats that face our nation. Communities can overcome whatever obstacles come their way — even BRAC — but to be prepared, they need certainty and direction from policymakers willing to make difficult decisions.
We need to leave this crossroads toward a base of the future that is strategic, efficient and responsive to the needs of our nation’s defense, as well as the installations, service members, veterans, families and businesses who call America’s defense communities home.
Tim Ford is CEO of the Association of Defense Communities.