March 29, 2005 | WebMemo on National Security and Defense
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is one of the most important-and controversial-issues affecting military transformation. U.S. basing infrastructure must be recalibrated to reflect America's forever changing national security requirements. President Bush has initiated another round of BRAC to eliminate excess basing infrastructure and free resources for the Pentagon's critical transformation initiatives. At a recent event co-hosted by The Heritage Foundation and the Minuteman Institute for National Defense Studies, experts examined the issues surrounding the 2005 round of BRAC.
The 2005 Round
There are two schools of thought on the current round of BRAC. One is that the Department of Defense has too much infrastructure and that money, resources, and personnel could be put to better use. The other view holds that with the U.S. military engaged in the war on terror, fighting in Iraq, and facing uncertain future threats, now is not the time for BRAC.
The Pentagon itself encourages the use of "best business practices," and it is worth looking at the situation from a business perspective. No business could survive supporting the excess infrastructure that currently burdens the Department of Defense. For that reason, and despite some concerns about timing and impact on operational readiness, most experts agree that 2005 is the right time for another round of BRAC.
Undertaking a round of BRAC at this time offers a number of advantages:
Past BRAC Commissions (in 1988, 1991, 1993, and 1995) have shared several similarities:
Communities that fear they may be "on the list" are likely to follow the BRAC Commission's activities closely. Past rounds of BRAC show that if a community has a base on the list for realignment or closure, chances are high that that based will be realigned or closed. But if a community's base is not on the original list, it is unlikely to be added. Recent legislation requires a majority of seven commissioners, out of nine total, to add a base to the list. Communities should remember that Congress does not select individual bases for BRAC but only has the opportunity vote down the entire list. If Congress chooses not to vote, then the Commission's recommendations are automatically enacted.
Making the 2005 BRAC a Success
Participants provided the following suggestions for the success of this round of BRAC:
For more information on Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), see Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum No. 953, "Defense Priorities for the Next Four Years," WebMemo No. 507, "BRAC Must Not Be Delayed," and Backgrounder No. 1716, " Guidelines for a Successful BRAC," all available on Heritage.org.
Jack Spencer is Senior Policy Analyst for Defense and National Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Kathy Gudge is, Research Assistant in Defense and National Security. This paper is based on presentations given at "Whither Base Closure? Next Steps for Congress," held at the National Guard Memorial Building on March 16, 2005.