Defense Dept., Congress Clash Over Base Closings

Monday, 30 Apr 2012 01:55 PM

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A military expert warns of a looming showdown on unpopular stateside base closings in an up-to-the-minute analysis.

The Lexington Institute’s Dr. Daniel Goure, a past member of the Department of Defense Transition Team and former director of the DoD’s Office of Strategic Competitiveness, warns in a new briefing: “The reality is that the Pentagon’s current infrastructure is simply unaffordable.”

Goure, an NBC national security and military analyst, discloses that the dramatic and historic rash of overseas base closings will, by sheer weight of necessity, soon make it to the home shores, where base closings are traditionally a third-rail issue.

“Despite five rounds of base closures over the past twenty or so years, there is still significant excess capacity,” Goure writes.

“The last such effort by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) is generally judged to have been a failure,” Goure adds. “Rather than taking a cleaver or even scalpel to the oversized defense infrastructure, the 2005 BRAC barely wielded a paring knife. It accepted relatively few of the Pentagon’s recommended reductions and kept open several very expensive and underutilized facilities.”

The DoD understands that to efficiently perform despite increasing funding cuts, it must slash costly surplus infrastructure at home. The problem is that Congress is obstructive, Goure writes. Lawmakers who represent venues with a big DoD footprint don’t want workers standing idle outside the locked gates of a closed military facility.

Indeed, the Pentagon has asked Congress to approve two new rounds of base closures, but lawmakers have vocally hammered home uncompromising opposition to any new base closures or other reductions in the Pentagon’s infrastructure.

Regardless of the opposition, Goure says the tsunami of overseas base closings is racing homeward.

“The U.S. has completed or will soon finalize the handover of some 100 bases and facilities in Germany alone,” he instructs. “Some 50 such locations are being cut in South Korea. Most recently, Japan and the U.S. signed an agreement that would see some 9,000 Marines moved from Okinawa to Guam with a concomitant reduction in the U.S. footprint in Japan.

“With substantial cuts in end-strength looming for both the active and reserve component of the U.S. military, it is not surprising that large reductions of military infrastructure at home also are becoming more plausible,” the expert warns.

Under fresh and unprecedented assault: the Pentagon’s large, complex and very expensive array of installations, depots, arsenals, research facilities, training sites, logistics centers, test facilities and communications nodes.

“The true cost of maintaining excess infrastructure was hidden for a while by the enormous Overseas Contingency Operations [OCO] spending associated with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the expert says. “Now that the former conflict is over and the latter winding down, the war funding is declining and the true costs of defense of that infrastructure is becoming apparent.”

The bottom line: This reduced funding is already affecting many of the Pentagon’s facilities, particularly the depots and maintenance centers that repair, overhaul and support military platforms and systems.

“These facilities are scrambling to find new sources of revenue. Unfortunately, because the depots and maintenance centers are not allowed to compete against one another, they often try to take work away from the private sector, an activity commonly referred to as insourcing,” Goure reveals.

Under the law, the DoD is required to maintain a government-owned and staffed capability to provide core maintenance support for its systems. Furthermore, Congress mandated that at least 50 percent of depot maintenance funds must be given to government-run facilities, regardless of their cost compared to the private sector.

“But even with these advantages, there will not be enough money to maintain all the depots and maintenance centers,” the expert says. “Exacerbating the problem is the fact that work performed in the depots and other maintenance facilities is generally more expensive and less efficient than that done by their private sector equivalents.

“The managers and workers in the depots, maintenance centers and other sustainment facilities should not for a moment think that they are safe,” Goure concludes.

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