Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Base Re-Alignment and Closure (BRAC)

BRAC has been around since around 1990 as a response to Reagan Administration build-up. Back then, it was easy to find small installations (such as Gentile Air Station near Dayton) that supported a single use (such as telecommunications. The facilities were thought to be redundant as well as the numerous bases in Europe that were a legacy of World War II. It was found that closing overseas facilities was easier as there were no legislators or constituents to trip over. The first BRACs were then to close redundant or obsolete facilities to gain efficiencies. It also supported the drawdown of forces ordered by George H. Bush.

The 2005 BRAC was different in two important ways from previous BRACs. First, it focused on stateside bases while overseas bases were increasing. Second, for the purposes of the USAF the BRAC served as a means of culling the newer C-130s from the Reserve component back into the active duty.

The slightly dated map above shows just how many bases now exist in the CENTCOM area of responsibility (AOR). It also serves as an illustrative reminder of why Iran feels no compelling reason to stop developing nuclear weapons. Given the history and the incredible footprint of US forces, I find the following from Air Force Magazine to be rather interesting;

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday raised concerns to the Pentagon leadership over the Obama Administration's proposal for two new BRAC rounds in 2013 and 2015. "Finding further reductions in consolidations in our overseas force posture should be our first priority before another BRAC round," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, during the oversight hearing on DOD's Fiscal 2013 budget request. "I have serious questions whether we save any money from a BRAC process," added Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he'd oppose more BRAC since the US military is being reduced "to an unacceptable level." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he understood the lawmakers' concerns as a former Congressman whose district had to absorb a base closure. "I recognize how controversial this process is for members and for constituencies. And yet it is the only effective way to achieve needed infrastructure savings," he said. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was one voice expressing favor for consolidation, saying "it's appropriate to consider another round."

Only stateside facilities appear to be targeted. The 179 Airlfit Wing in Mansfield has been hit twice since 2005. First, they lost their C-130s (and the base was nearly closed). Now their C-27 Spartans are being taken away.

Drawing forces down while facing potential hostilities in Syria, Iran and Egypt just seems premature.

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