Budget Crunch Dictates New BRAC Round, Analyst Says
While many lawmakers have cited the upfront costs associated with carrying out base closures as an argument against authorizing a new BRAC round at a time when the Pentagon is being forced to slash spending, one defense analyst believes shuttering excess facilities is one key structural reform the military needs to implement to rein in its budget.
“No business in America would be satisfied operating for a decade with 21 percent excess facilities,” Todd Harrison, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said Friday. “You would find your way to close those facilities and right-size yourself. The problem here, of course, is purely political,” he said during a preview of the department’s fiscal 2014 budget request, reported CQ.
His prescription for the Pentagon calls for the new budget to allocate funding for the upfront costs needed to carry out base closures. Last year, the administration did not include estimates in its FY 2013 budget proposal for the upfront costs or long-term savings that would be generated by the two BRAC rounds it requested.
The other major component of operations and maintenance costs that DOD needs to trim is the payroll for its civilian workforce, Harrison said. Unless Congress and the White House reach an agreement to reverse sequestration, the department will have more civilian employees than it can afford in FY 2014. Officials no longer will be able to resort to furloughs, so they will need to “begin the painful process of initiating a reduction-in-force process to reduce the size of the civilian workforce in a thoughtful manner,” he said.
Even more importantly, the department will need to deal with exploding military personnel costs. Harrison recommends officials propose a package of reforms to its compensation system that cut benefits undervalued by service members and reinvest some of the savings into other, more highly valued forms of compensation.
While conceding that DOD needs the support of Congress to carry out such reforms, Harrison says the department should attempt to break away from the crisis-driven budgeting it’s been forced to cope with recently by delivering a budget request that acknowledges the $55 billion in automatic cuts imposed under sequestration.
“DOD should not expect Congress to make the tough decisions if it is not willing to make tough decisions itself,” he states