Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri facing a tough re-election fight this fall, announced earlier this year that “I will not support the request for a BRAC process to be carried out in 2013.”
While McCaskill is obviously motivated by the Missouri communities that depend on military posts, her powerful pause allows for a consideration of where the nation sits with the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) process.
Residents of Anniston and its surroundings know more than they wish to about BRAC.
More than 10 years have passed since the Army left Fort McClellan. The transition from military post to public asset for living, working and recreating has been difficult. The successes — and there are several at McClellan — have taken longer to achieve than many might have assumed. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for the game-changer of a move that would establish the property as a thriving research park.
Meanwhile, to McClellan’s west sits the Anniston Army Depot, a valuable Pentagon asset. Yet, a mention of a new round of base-closings sends local politicians and economic developers to battle stations. As we’ve learned from hard experience, the BRAC process can be both cruelly illogical and devastating to local economies.
More than 20 years after BRAC was created, the rationale for all this pain stands. With the Cold War behind us, it was a time to reflect on the amount of U.S. military installations. The pork-barrel politics placement of these posts had put the Pentagon in a pinch. Taxpayer dollars were being wasted because of redundancies in military outposts. In order to more fairly make adjustments, the BRAC process was created. It removed a layer or two of the politics that had put us in this bind.
A new analysis from the Government Accountability Office raises serious questions about exactly how much money is being saved by these base-closings.
The most recent BRAC “effort was supposed to save the government $36 billion by 2025,” Adam Ashton of McClatchy Newspapers reported last week. “But the Pentagon spent more money than it projected on upfront costs, and the BRAC round likely will result in less than $10 billion in savings through 2025, according to the report issued last week.”
The Defense Department didn’t dispute the GAO’s math. It did respond that, “The department continues to believe that the BRAC process is the only fair, objective and proven process for closing and realigning bases ...”
The Pentagon’s response is beyond argument. More involvement from the president and Congress and less from BRAC officials would make things worse, much worse. However, our topic is more about savings and less about process. Actually, it’s about math.
While the work of the base-closing commission remains, the nation will be better served by a more clear-eyed projection of the amount of money saved.