A new Pentagon appointee is vowing to push for reform within the Department of Defense that reduces long-term costs and closes excess infrastructure.
During his July 18 nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to become the assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations, and environment, Lucian Niemeyer expressed strong support for congressional authorization for a new round of base realignment and closure (BRAC).
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted in favor of Niemeyer’s nomination on July 27. If confirmed by the full Senate, he would benefit the Pentagon as someone that fully grasps the importance of BRAC.
While answering questions from senators, Niemeyer showed that he will be a strong advocate for a new round of BRAC.
The Department of Defense has very limited authority to close unneeded infrastructure. Congressional authorization is required for a new round that would allow the Pentagon to consolidate infrastructure that it no longer needs.
Niemeyer stated in written testimony that another round of base realignment and closures is an “objective way to improve our force across all components, while freeing up resources over the long term for higher military priorities.”
Furthermore, he noted that congressional authorization would allow “ideal base utilization, greater military effectiveness, and economic growth for defense communities around the country suffering from years of uncertainty.”
However, many members of Congress have opposed the authorization for another round of BRAC, citing cost overruns and the high cost of the 2005 round.
Niemeyer acknowledged the concerns from critics and stated that future BRAC should be “focused on operational efficiency so that the resulting savings can be used for other warfighting needs.”
Members of Congress have argued that the Pentagon’s unused capacity should be used to expand the armed forces.
Niemeyer responded to that point by noting that any BRAC decisions would be forward-looking based on a sound national security strategy that meets global challenges, now and in the future.
Directly responding to BRAC opposition, Niemeyer stated:
Conducting BRAC at a time of military growth may seem counterintuitive, but now is the time to authorize a round. By 2021, when the secretary submits recommendations, force growth projections, as has been discussed by this committee this year, will be factored into the analysis to make prudent strategic decisions about basing.
Support for another round of BRAC complements Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ reform agenda.
During his June 13 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis stated to Congress, “Of all the efficiency measures the department has undertaken over the years, BRAC is one of the most successful and significant.”
According to estimates from the Department of Defense, previous BRAC rounds saved over $12 billion in annual recurring savings. Mattis believes a new round of BRAC could continue this cost-savings trend with a potential of $2 billion in savings annually.
A recent Heritage Foundation report highlights important steps Congress can take to ensure the next BRAC is properly implemented. If correctly implemented, another round of BRAC can reduce the Pentagon’s fixed costs and result in a stronger military.
Congress should mandate that a new round of BRAC focus primarily on cost savings and reinvestment. Niemeyer expressed support for this approach and ensured that savings would be directed toward investment and advancing warfighting capabilities.
Congress can also set reduction targets and guidelines that ensure future security challenges are met. With proper oversight, both Congress and the Department of Defense can achieve their objectives with a new authorization of BRAC.
Most importantly, these reforms will save taxpayers money and result in a military that can more effectively meet the growing security challenges. If the Pentagon is to carry out reforms, congressional leaders must enact reforms set forth by department officials.
Authorization of another round of BRAC is an important reform initiative that produces substantial long-term savings.