WASHINGTON (AFNS) – The Defense Department possesses more real estate than it needs and is looking to close additional bases and installations in the United States and abroad, a senior DOD official told a House panel March 14.
Air Force leaders agree, according to Kathleen I. Ferguson, acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics.
“While we have no recent excess infrastructure capacity analysis from which to draw, our capacity analysis from 2004 suggested that 24 percent of Air Force basing infrastructure was excess to our mission needs,” Ferguson said.
Since the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, which brought very few changes to the Air Force and only 3.4 percent reductions to the entire DOD, the Air Force has reduced its force structure by more than 500 aircraft and active-duty end strength by nearly 8 percent, Ferguson said.
“So, intuitively we know that we still have excess infrastructure, while we spend considerable time optimizing the use of our facilities and carefully and frugally managing those facilities we know to be excess,” Ferguson said.
Based on these facts, which were mirrored in the other services, another round of base realignments and closings should be an essential part of any overall strategy for reshaping the military, John Conger, the acting deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told the House Armed Services Committee in prepared testimony.
“Force structure is declining relative to that which existed in 2005, thereby continuing to add to aggregate excess capacity,” Conger said, noting that the U.S. Army is reducing its active-duty end strength from 570,000 to 490,000 by 2020, and the Marine Corps from about 202,000 to 182,000.
“If we assume our bases were either appropriately loaded or were carrying excess capacity, these force reductions will increase that surplus,” he said.
In last year’s budget request, the Pentagon asked Congress for permission to initiate two more rounds of base closings under BRAC. Conger said the last round of BRAC closings, in 2005, produced $4 billion in annual recurring savings.
By law, under the BRAC process, an independent commission submits to Congress a list of military installations it believes should be closed or realigned, with lawmakers and the president then required to approve or reject the recommendations without change.
The Defense Department is examining further reductions in U.S. military bases in Europe, where Conger said more than 100 sites have already been returned to host governments since 2003, and where no authority from Congress is required for recommending additional closures.
“By the end of this year, we plan to conclude with a fully vetted list of options from which the Secretary (of Defense) can make strategic decisions for eliminating excess, preserving and even enhancing our ability to meet strategic and operational commitments,” Conger said in his prepared remarks.
The U.S. Army already plans to close 33 sites in Europe associated with the decision to reduce brigade combat teams based on the continent.