Officials Seek Construction Funds, More BRAC in Budget Hearing
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 27, 2012 The Defense Department’s request for $11.2 billion for military construction and family housing in the fiscal 2013 budget would balance the armed forces’ needs with the nation’s economic situation, the Pentagon’s chief financial officer told the Senate Armed Forces Committee here today.
Comptroller Robert F. Hale also requested more rounds of base realignments and closures in fiscal 2013 and 2015.
“Even with planned force cuts, … BRAC is the only effective means to meet that goal,” he told the senators.
“We recognize the political difficulty of providing [that] authority,” Hale added, “but we need your support to help us hold down long-term costs.”
Hale cited the Budget Control Act as the impetus for defense spending reductions already in place, noting that projected funding for fiscal 2016 and 2017 is $259 billion less than last year’s plan.
“After these changes, we asked for $525.4 billion in the discretionary budget authorization for fiscal 2013,” he said. Adjusted for inflation, he told the panel, that’s a 2.5-percent decline, the third straight year of real decline in defense budgets.
In a new spending strategy, Hale told committee members, the reduced defense spending would be accommodated by resource cuts and efforts to stretch defense dollars. This would include “substantial rephasing of military construction [by] pushing off projects [until] we know the nature and location of force cuts, which we don’t in a number of cases,” he said.
Hale said the new defense strategy provides other opportunities for savings.
“We’re planning for a smaller, leaner force,” he explained, “where ground forces are no longer sized for prolonged stability operations. … We’re reducing active duty end-strength by 102,000 between the end of 2012 and fiscal 2017, and it’s mostly 90 percent in our ground forces [in the] Army and the Marine Corps.”
Another strategic goal is to rebalance U.S. forces toward the Asian-Pacific region and the Middle East, which would involve increasing U.S. presence in areas such as Singapore and Australia, he said.
“We’re working to … relocate Marines from Okinawa to Guam in a manner consistent with our larger Asia-Pacific strategy," he said.
Other initiatives in the Asia-Pacific area include forward deployment of combat ships in Singapore and rotation and presence of U.S. military personnel in Australia. “No military construction funding is planned for U.S. rotational presence in Australia, but we’ll continue environmental studies and facility assessments,” he added.
Other planning investments involve high-priority initiatives such as special operations forces, unmanned aerial vehicle sites and cybersecurity, along with judicious reductions in weapons programs, Hale said.
Military construction has been reduced by 17 to 63 percent between fiscal 2012 and 2013 in some areas, he said, but defensewide military construction is expected to grow by 6 percent during that time.
“The growth reflects support for high-priority improvements in hospitals and DOD dependent schools,” he said.
The Defense Department will continue to support the all-volunteer force, Hale told the Senate panel, but would propose to slow the growth in selected aspects of military pay and benefits to gain control over personnel costs.
Touching on recently announced reductions in U.S. troops stationed in Europe, Hale told the committee DOD would remove from Europe an Army headquarters, two heavy combat brigades, an attack air squadron, an air control squadron and other enablers.
“Despite these changes, the U.S. will maintain a strong presence in Europe with greater emphasis on joint exercises, and training,” he said. “But the changes will lead to a reduction in our overseas infrastructure, and we will take those into account … in tandem with our two rounds of BRAC, which will be aimed at domestic infrastructure.”
Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, echoed support for two more rounds of BRAC.
“Force reductions produce excess capacity,” she said. “[That] is a drain on resources. Only through BRAC can we align our infrastructure strategy.
“With the recently announced force changes in Europe, we can do more to consolidate our infrastructure,” Robyn continued. “We have a BRAC-like process that my office is working on closely on with the [U.S. European Command] theater commander. But even if we make significant cuts in our footprint in Europe, we still need a domestic BRAC.”
Robyn said the 2005 round of base realignments and closures is different from the new rounds of BRAC the Defense Department seeks.
“The 2005 BRAC was not about savings,” she said. “It was about eliminating excess capacity carried out in a post-9/11 environment, when the DOD was at war and the military was growing. It was about transforming installations to better support the warfighter.”
Robyn also discussed a $4 billion request in the defense budget for environmental programs.
“One common theme across energy and environment efforts is the technological innovation [that] has been DOD’s comparative advantage for 200 years,” she said. “We tend to talk about it in terms of weapons systems and combat operations, [but] it’s important to harness that advantage for what trying to do with respect to energy and the environment.”
Harnessing emerging technologies in energy and the environment are a way to significantly reduce DOD’s cost, and improve its performance, she said.
“We should take full advantage of market mechanism and competition to do that, and we should leverage our extraordinary talent for driving technological change,” Robyn said.