Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the Defense Department is operating at 19 percent excess capacity and is urging Congress to authorize another round of base realignment and closures, according to a new report sent to Capitol Hill and obtained by Inside Defense.
"Now is the time to authorize another round," Mattis writes in an Oct. 6 letter accompanying the report. "I must be able to eliminate excess infrastructure in order to shift resources to readiness and modernization."
Mattis notes he is in the midst of crafting a new National Defense Strategy and needs BRAC authorization to inform the process.
"An updated defense strategy must be supported by an updated basing strategy," he writes.
The letter and report come as House and Senate lawmakers are preparing to enter into conference committee negotiations on the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill.
Many lawmakers have argued against another BRAC round. House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) said in July she has "never seen it save money. "But Mattis says a great deal has changed since the 2005 BRAC round, which lawmakers have particularly singled out for failing to save money.
"Since the last BRAC round, we have developed new methods of warfare, new technologies, and expanded need for warfighter training that require us to assess the military value and effectiveness of our domestic military infrastructure," Mattis writes. "In addition, every unnecessary facility we maintain requires us to cut capabilities elsewhere."
The report Mattis sent lawmakers uses historical ratios of forces and infrastructure to identify types of facilities that may have excess capacity in relation to FY-12 force levels.
"While this categorical analysis indicates the department maintains approximately 19 percent excess capacity, I want to incorporate an updated national defense strategy into a more detailed [installation-by-installation] capacity analysis that can only occur
within a congressionally authorized BRAC round," he writes.
Mattis also assures lawmakers that even an authorized BRAC round "would proceed only if I certify that a BRAC round is needed and that it will achieve savings for each of the military departments."
The report, which lists 29 percent excess capacity for the Army and 28 percent for the Air Force, drew a strong reaction from Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee who has long supported another BRAC round.
"This report shows that the case for authorizing a new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process is extremely strong, even if we plan to substantially increase the size of the military," he said in an Oct. 17 statement.
"Even with higher force levels than we have today, 19 percent of the Defense Department's infrastructure capacity would be excess to its requirement, including 29 percent excess capacity for the Army and 28 percent for excess capacity for the Air Force. That's a huge amount," he said. "We are wasting taxpayer money to maintain buildings and facilities that the military does not need, while we drain away funds for readiness and weaponry that could keep our service members safe and our country secure."
The report also lists 6 percent excess capacity for the Navy and 13 percent for the Defense Logistics Agency.