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Lawmakers divided on possible 2017 BRAC round

Mar. 3, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Rep. Steny Hoyer holds town hall meeting with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center employees to discuss the sequester March 12, 2013, in Greenbelt, Md.
Rep. Steny Hoyer holds town hall meeting with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center employees to discuss the sequester March 12, 2013, in Greenbelt, Md. (Staff)
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When it comes to a new round of base closures in 2017, lawmakers are split between lukewarm support, vehement opposition and general uncertainty.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said while Congress has to make tough budget decisions about the Defense Department, he does not think there should be another base realignment and closure (BRAC) round.

“Not at this point in time. I don’t think that is necessary,” Hoyer said.

In a Feb. 24 speech, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said DoD will ask Congress for another BRAC round for 2017 that would cut billions from its infrastructure costs.

In 2004, DoD estimated it had about 25 percent excess infrastructure. The 2005 base realignment and closure process cut roughly 3 percent of that. The department saves more than $12 billion a year from the five BRAC rounds announced between 1988 and 2005 and is hoping to save more in a future consolidation.

The proposed 2017 round would also help DoD reduce the size of its civilian workforce by several percentage points, according to DoD officials.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said he is not sure if he would vote for a new BRAC round for 2017 and would have to have more specific details about its composition and process.

But he is certain there will eventually be another BRAC to help reduce infrastructure costs.

“It’s probably inevitable there will be another round of BRAC closures because frankly the defense budget is going to have to make some serious adjustments given the fiscal realities,” Connolly said.

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said many people are attracted to the idea of 2017 BRAC because in theory it takes politics out of the process but he is not sure he would support it.

“I would have to take a closer look at that one and analyze it in the context of the last round,” Sarbanes said.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said while Maryland has done well in every BRAC process and gained thousands of jobs in expanded bases he does not support another round at this time.

“I think you hav eto have that well thought out and planned and I don’t think we’re ready for another BRAC round right now,” Cardin said.

Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., said he wouldn’t oppose another round of base closures.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.

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