On April 12th, the Pentagon transmitted a report to the Congress that lays out its excess “infrastructure capacity” – in other words, how many military bases and other installations they have that are no longer needed.
For many years we at Taxpayers for Common Sense have advocated for a new round of base closures. The last time a base closure commission made recommendations to the President and the Congress was in 2005 – more than a decade ago.
The Pentagon was able to do a round of “European Infrastructure Consolidation” last year, but only because no authority from Congress or elsewhere is needed for the U.S. military to make those decisions. And, let’s face it, there isn’t a single Member of Congress who represents a U.S. military facility in Germany or anywhere else in Europe. Literally, Europe isn’t in the backyard of any Member of Congress and, therefore, the “not in my backyard” canard doesn’t apply.
After a long hiatus from any kind of military consolidations during the Cold War, in 1988 there was a Congressionally-mandated outside commission charged with making base closure recommendations to the Administration and the Congress. The deal was that the recommendations of the commission would ultimately have to be approved as a package – no cherry-picking allowed. And that model held through several more rounds of closure in 1991, 1993, and 1995. Then we had a decade-long hiatus before the next round in 2005. And here we are eleven years later, with no opportunity on the horizon for a reasoned approach to further shrinking the infrastructure of the Department of Defense.
Last year a draft amendment to establish a new base closure commission from Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, was rejected by the Rules Committee and never even allowed to be offered on the House Floor for a vote. What is the Congress afraid of?
In fact, in legislation last year the Congress forbade the Pentagon from even thinking about another round. Well, not quite, but close enough. Flying in the face of that prohibition, comes this report on excess military infrastructure. Bottom line: overall the Department of Defense has 22% excess capacity in military installations. Broken down by service the Army has 33%, the Air Force 32% and the Navy 7%.
We’re not among the groups who believe the Pentagon when it says $524 billion in funding (plus another almost $59 billion in the off-budget war funding account) is barely enough to keep the specter of sequestration from the door. But we do believe the Pentagon should be allowed to make management adjustments to its installations.
And the Congress needs to get out of the way.