House subcommittee rejects any notion of BRAC in budget

A House subcommittee has not only rejected the administration's request for base closings in 2015, it expressly forbade a new round.

If Congress were to authorize a Base Realignment and Closure process, it would be the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee that would draft the language.

Instead, the subcommittee added language to the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that states, "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round," and no funding may be used to "propose, plan for, or execute" BRAC.

The subcommittee approved the defense spending bill Thursday. It now moves to the full committee.

The fiscal 2014 Department of Defense budget request included $2.4 billion to fund a BRAC in 2015. The Naval Submarine Base in Groton was nearly closed during the 2005 round.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, a member of the subcommittee, said many members of Congress won't support another BRAC because the 2005 round was so expensive and will not generate savings until 2018, which is years later than expected.

The cost to implement the 2005 recommendations increased 66 percent, from $21 billion to $35 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office.

"We have followed closely the Pentagon's efforts in 2005 and based on the complete miscalculation of budget savings from that BRAC round and the timeline that we're in with the Budget Control Act, I think this is the right decision by the Readiness Committee," Courtney said. "In a time of budget constraints, we cannot sort of wish for savings that the Pentagon claims they can recover."

Now, Courtney said, there is more time to continue improving the submarine base, before the administration makes another attempt at convincing Congress to authorize BRAC.

A member of Congress could attempt to add an amendment to the bill to authorize BRAC. But last year, the subcommittee's rejection of the administration's request for rounds of base closures in 2013 and 2015 held up through the process.

"There might be a small number of members who feel there's a reason to do it, but I think when the House bill is complete, it will mirror what the subcommittee is doing."

In the House, when it comes to BRAC, Courtney said, the administration is "going to be batting 0 for 2."


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