WASHINGTON — The Army has excess infrastructure that is expensive to maintain. Under a tight budget, funds used to maintain that infrastructure could be better spent on Soldier readiness, officials told lawmakers, Wednesday.
Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, testified before the House Appropriations Committee, subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies. She and her counterparts from the other services and Department of Defense explained the need for another round of base realignment and closure, known as BRAC.
“We simply do not have the money to operate buildings that are empty,” Hammack said, adding that facilities in mothballs are also “lost opportunities” for surrounding communities who might make better use of the property.
John Conger, acting deputy under secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment, said the last BRAC round of 2005, which cost $35 billion to implement, “has left a bad taste.” Emphasis in 2005 was on “transformation” instead of only efficiencies.
“The key reason that BRAC 2005 cost so much is we were willing to accept recommendations that did not save money — that did not pay back,” he said. Any future BRAC round would solely focus on efficiencies, he said.
The last BRAC round identified an excess Army infrastructure capacity of more than 20 percent, Hammack said, adding that only 3.5 percent was reduced.
“So there is clearly excess capacity that has been there awhile that we have not addressed,” Hammack said.
In addition, she said any future end-strength reduction that puts the Army below 490,000 Soldiers will result in excess capacity.
The Army currently has an excess capacity ranging between 12 to 28 percent, depending upon the category of facility, Hammack said. She pointed out that a facility capacity analysis is currently underway Army-wide, and should be completed this year. The analysis will identify exactly how much excess is in the inventory, and will suggest opportunities for consolidation.
In addition, a programmatic environmental assessment, or PEA, is also underway, “taking another look at infrastructure,” she said.
“BRAC is a proven means to address excess capacity in the United States,” Hammack said.
The Army receives about $2 billion net savings annually from previous BRAC rounds, Hammack said. She went on to say DoD saves about $3.8 billion annually from BRAC 2005, and about $12 billion from all previous BRAC rounds.
Savings from another BRAC round are needed, Hammack said. The Army’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget of $1.3 billion for military construction and Family housing is about a 39-percent reduction from the fiscal year 2014 budget.
The focus with a reduced budget is only on repairing or replacing infrastructure that is “failing,” Hammack said, although the Army is also asking for $13 billion for installation energy, environmental programs, facility sustainment, restoration and modernization and base operations support.
Current budget levels require a “difficult balance between the cost of maintaining infrastructure and force readiness,” Hammack said.
In Europe, she said the Army is “on track” to shrink overseas infrastructure and the same will be necessary in the continental United States.
In addressing excess infrastructure, Hammack said the Army and Congress have both historically concluded that BRAC is “more transparent and economically advantageous” than other ways of addressing excess capacity.
“We have a clear business case for a 2014 round,” Hammack said. “There is a clear path forward for Congress to agree to a new round of BRAC.”