WASHINGTON — The Army needs two more rounds of base realignment and closure, known as BRAC, to align its infrastructure with a downsizing force, the assistant secretary responsible for installations told lawmakers this week.
“The Army does support the DOD request for BRAC authority for 2013 and 2015,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, “because changes in force structure will necessitate evaluation of our facilities to optimize usage and capability.”
Hammack testified March 7 on Capitol Hill to the House Appropriations Committee, subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. Her testimony followed that of Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment, who made the case for additional BRAC rounds.
“Of all the efficiency measures that the department has undertaken over the years, BRAC is perhaps the most successful and significant,” Robyn said.
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Under BRAC 2005, the Army closed 11 installations and 387 reserve-component sites while realigning 53 other installations, Hammack said.
While BRAC legislation is used to close installations in the United States, no such authority is required overseas, and Hammack outlined to legislators how the Army has realigned in Germany and Korea.
“We have listened to Congress and have followed your guidance to reduce costs and footprint in Europe and in Korea,” she said.
In Europe, over the last six years, the Army closed 97 sites and returned 23,000 acres. In Korea over the same time period, Hammack said the Army closed 34 sites with 7,300 acres returned to the host nation.
“In the next four years, we plan to close another 23 sites and return 6,400 acres, primarily to Germany,” she continued, adding that in Korea, over the next four years, the Army plans to close 20 sites and return 9,400 acres.
“And so we are implementing a BRAC-like base realignment and closure overseas,” Hammack said, “similar to what has been done in the United States.”
The last BRAC round stateside greatly benefited the Army National Guard and Reserve, she said, explaining that dilapidated buildings were closed and units consolidated in new facilities. She added this enabled the return of land to local communities, helping their economies and tax base.
The Army will downsize its active-duty force by 80,000 Soldiers over the next six years, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said in a separate testimony March 8 to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Overall, DOD plans for a 5.5 percent reduction in troops from across all services over the next five years.
“The math is straightforward,” Robyn told the House Appropriations Committee members. “Force reductions produce excess capacity. Excess capacity is a drain on resources. Only through BRAC can we align our infrastructure with our defense strategy.”
In the fiscal year 2013 budget, the Army is asking for about $100 million to handle environmental cleanup and caretaker issues at sites closed by the last round of BRAC. Another $79 million is requested primarily for environmental cleanup of sites closed by even earlier rounds of BRAC.
The Army’s overall fiscal year 2013 budget request for military construction, family housing and BRAC is $3.6 billion, a 32 percent reduction from this year’s budget, Hammack said. She added that the smaller budget request “reflects the current fiscal reality.”
One way the Army plans to save money is by reducing energy consumption and producing its own power through large-scale renewable-energy projects such as solar arrays, wind turbines and geothermal power.
“Reducing energy at Army facilities is mission-critical to us as we have seen energy challenges due to recent weather events,” Hammack said. Midwest tornadoes over the last year hampered the ability of some installations to access energy off the grid as power lines went down, she explained.
Since 2003, the Army has reduced installation energy consumption by 13 percent, she said, while at the same time the number of active Soldiers and civilians has increased by 20 percent.
An Energy Initiatives Task Force was stood up at the Pentagon last year to help installations with large-scale energy projects. It is currently reviewing about 10 projects that could generate up to a gigawatt of energy, Hammack said.
In fact, she said a request for proposal, or RFP, was released last week for a $7 billion multiple-award task order for energy projects.
“These projects are going to give us more energy security by relying on natural resources,” Hammack said.
Hammack concluded her testimony noting that within the first quarter of FY 12, the Army implemented $93 million in energy-saving performance contracts, “and that was more than we did in all of fiscal year ‘11, which was $74 million.” She said contract processing time had also been cut in half and was down to 12 to 14 months.