The Army’s assistant secretary for Installations, Energy and Environment was back on Capitol Hill along with Defense Department and service counterparts to request another round of base realignment and closure in fiscal year 2015.
Katherine Hammack testified before the House Appropriations Committee, April 12, that as the Army reduces its force structure and end strength by roughly 14 percent, or 80,000 Soldiers come 2017, the service will also need to keep in-line with those personnel reductions by assessing and right-sizing the supporting infrastructure.
She said the Army requested $2.4 billion for construction in fiscal year 2014 which would cover Army family housing as well as the Army’s share of the DOD base closure account. This represents a 34 percent reduction from the fiscal year 2013 request, she noted.
“In addition to and in support of Army installations and facilities, the Army also requests $15.2 billion for installation energy, environmental programs, facilities sustainment, restoration modernization and base operating support,” Hammack told the committee.
“With the fiscal challenges the Army and the whole Department of Defense is making, we closely reviewed our facility investments to determine the level of resources necessary to support the force,” she said, adding that supporting the force requires both adequate facilities and training ranges.
In preparation for adding new construction and upgrading infrastructure, the Army published a programmatic environmental assessment which was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. A finding of “no significant impact” was published by the Federal Register, April 12. She said many communities are also concerned with socio-economic impact.
“With the reduced end strength and reduced force structure in the U.S., now is the time to assess and right-size the supporting infrastructure in line with force structure reductions in Europe, where we’re reducing by two brigade combat teams,” she said.
The secretary said along with a 45 percent reduction in force structure in Europe, the Army is also implementing a 51 percent reduction in infrastructure in anticipation of a corresponding 58 percent reduction in workforce and 57 percent reduction in base operating costs.
“A future round of base realignment and closure in the U.S. is essential for us to right-size our infrastructure in the United States just like we’re doing in Europe,” Hammack said. “In Europe we’re working closely with [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] and the other services to identify if there are opportunities for ‘jointness’ or consolidation beyond that which the Army is already implementing.”
Hammack pointed out that previous rounds of base realignment and closure, known as BRAC, have resulted in cost savings to the bottom line. The 2005 BRAC has resulted in $1 billion worth of savings to the Army annually, she said. The Army has conveyed almost 78 percent of the total BRAC acreage and is investing in the environmental cleanup to convey the remaining.
“We know, as we close bases, there is a cost for property conveyance and environmental cleanup,” she said. “Putting excess property back into productive reuse can facilitate job creation, help communities build a local tax base and generate revenue.”
John Conger, the deputy undersecretary of defense for Installations and Environment, also testified. He said he believes there’s a good case for another BRAC round. He said the previous five founds have been providing a recurring savings of $12 billion annually and was paying for the entire military construction bill and more.