WASHINGTON, March 4, 2015 —
Forcing the Defense Department to adhere to caps from the 2011 Budget Control Act would resonate across the entire defense budget, a senior DoD official testified here yesterday before the House.
John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, appeared before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veteran Affairs and Related Agencies, to discuss topics related to the fiscal year 2016 budget request for energy, installations, and environment. He also addressed base realignment and closure, or BRAC.
Seeking Budget Relief
“The department submitted a budget request that was $35 billion higher than the caps,” he said, “and $38 billion higher than last year.”
“Forcing us to adhere to the caps would have reverberations across the budget,” Conger said.
The president’s budget request, he said, includes a significant increase for facilities over last year’s request -- nearly $2 billion in military construction and $2.5 billion in facility sustainment and recapitalization.
Congers said legislation will be required to provide relief from the Budget Control Act caps, similar to that of the Bipartisan Budget Act two years ago.
“If you must adhere to the BCA caps,” he said, “Congress will have to cut that $35 billion from this request, and it will certainly have to consider cutting funds from the request for facilities.”
Shifting to BRAC, Congers said “it should be no surprise” that DoD is again requesting authority to conduct another round of BRAC.
“While I recognize the authority is not the purview of this committee per se,” he said, “your jurisdiction is intertwined with it and your voice is highly relevant to that decision.”
Conger said as DoD deals with this constrained budget environment “with considerable force structure decreases since 2005, we must look for ways to divest excess bases and to reduce the cost of supporting our smaller force structure.”
Key Points in BRAC Requests
During his testimony, Conger provided key points in support of the department’s BRAC request.
“The Army and the Air Force have done analyses indicating that 18 and 30 percent excess capacity already exists,” he said, “and I’ll note that the Army analysis is based on a number of 490,000 soldiers, not the projected 450,000.”
“This aligns with our prediction,” Conger said, “based on the analysis performed in 2004, that we do have excess capacity in the department and there is justification to do a BRAC round.”
Second, he said, partially in response to congressional urging, DoD conducted a BRAC-like review of European facilities and bases which was delivered to Congress this past January.
“We project that it will save more than $500 million annually once implemented,” Conger said.
“Third,” he said, “in this budget environment a new round of BRAC must be focused on efficiencies and savings.”
Differences from BRAC 2005
“I know that BRAC 2005 was unpopular,” Conger said. “The recommendations from that round were not all designed to save money, and that’s what drove up the cost.”
Conger said analysis was conducted which ascertained that roughly half of the BRAC 2005 recommendations were not projected -- even from the outset -- to save money within the first seven years after implementation.
“Many of them weren’t projected to actually have recurring savings,” he said.
But the half of the recommendations that were projected and intended to save money only cost $6 billion out of the $35 billion cost of the BRAC round, Conger said.
“It was a very small percentage of the overall cost,” he said, “and those recommendations represent $3 billion in recurring savings.”
“So once again,” Conger said, “just like the rounds of BRAC in the ‘90s, when we want to save money with BRAC recommendations, we do.”
Soliciting Congressional Input
Conger said the reality of the situation is that DoD can’t expect Congress to pass the legislative proposal for a new BRAC round because it mirrors the “unpopular” BRAC 2005 legislation.
“I understand the reality that no matter how many times the administration asserts that a future BRAC round will be about cost savings, Congress may want more than just our assurance,” he said.
“Let me be clear,” Conger said. “We are open to a discussion on this point, and I would like to solicit your suggestions for specific changes in the BRAC legislation that would make it more acceptable. We want to have that conversation.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)