Mr. Chairman, Members of the Commission.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the Department’s recommendations on Base Realignment and Closure. And thank you for agreeing to serve our country and perform what is a formidable task.
Today, the Department is in need of change and adjustment. Our current arrangements, designed for the Cold War, must give way to the new demands of the war against extremism and other evolving challenges. We face an enemy that is dispersed throughout the world. It does not operate the same way as a traditional enemy -- it has no territory to defend and no permanent bases to safeguard. Our enemy is constantly adapting and so must we.
Some have asked why we are proposing any base closings during a time of war. The answer is because these changes are essential to helping us win this war.
Consider the array of issues of concern to the Department of Defense -- and indeed to the country:
- Relieving stress on the force;
- Improving the ability of the forces to cooperate jointly;
- Protecting forces stationed at vulnerable bases and locations across the country and the world; and
- Properly equipping the troops.
If one thinks about those priorities, it clearly makes sense to do all that one can to identify and remove whatever excess exists to be better able to address those pressing needs to help the warfighters. In fact, these changes are more necessary -- not less -- during a time of war. At the same time, by making these changes, the American taxpayer benefits.
This, in essence, is the logic -- and the imperative -- of BRAC.
A few comments about what has been undertaken over the past two and a half years:
- First, as required by law, the primary factor in each BRAC decision has been an assessment of an installation’s underlying military value. Indeed, military judgments have played the key role from the outset, and properly so. In a time of war, whenever we can find ways to increase support for military needs -- to help the warfighters -- we can do no less.
- Second, the previous four BRAC rounds -- 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 -- over time have eliminated some 21% of excess U.S. military infrastructure, and re-allocated many billons of dollars to pressing military needs. This year’s recommendations, if approved, should result in up to $5.5 billion in recurring annual savings -- a net savings of up to $48.8 billion over 20 years. When combined with the proposed changes to U.S. global posture, the projected 20 year net savings increases to as much as $64.2 billion, or up to $6.7 billion per year;
- Third, for the first time, the BRAC deliberations took place with an emphasis on “jointness.” The Department recognized that operating jointly reduces overhead costs, improves efficiency and facilitates cooperative training and research. Importantly, the proposed consolidations also free up personnel and resources to reduce stress on the force and enhance force protection.
Additionally, the Department also considered potential contingency and surge requirements and possible increases in active duty troop levels. These recommendations, if adopted by the Commission, the President and the Congress, would result in 33 major base closures and 29 major base realignments out of 318 major domestic military facilities. Put another way, BRAC would close a bit less than 10 percent of major U.S. facilities, and realign another 9 percent.
BRAC also will help further the President’s goal of bringing Service members together under one umbrella. One way this would happen is through the consolidation of research, support and training functions of the different Services at what we call “Centers of Excellence.” These centers improve the ability of the military branches to share information, adopt common standards and procedures and increase efficiency. These changes in turn boost the ability to provide critical services to the men and women in uniform.
And on that issue, let me say a few words about the proposal affecting Walter Reed and Bethesda. A number of you have visited these facilities over the years. Every time I go there to visit with the wounded and their families, I come away tremendously inspired and strengthened by their courage and their dedication. I also have met with the outstanding medical personnel who are devoted to providing the best possible care.
So we can be especially encouraged by what the Department proposed to do with Walter Reed -- making it an even better medical facility than it is today. When the proposed consolidation is completed, Walter Reed will stand as a state-of-the art medical center bringing together the best possible medical talent and improving the treatment and other services provided to the troops and their families. These changes were proposed by the military medical professionals, and focused on such priorities as improving inpatient and outpatient services, casualty care research, potential surge capabilities, and care for retirees. The military should benefit tremendously from these changes.
While the concept of BRAC is nearly two decades old, this country has always made changes to its military infrastructure as required by changing times and changing threats. Consider that many of the state and national parks Americans tour with their families were once functioning military bases. Fort McHenry, just a short drive from Washington, D.C., was a defensive position in the Revolutionary War expanded into a fort in the early 1800’s.
One hundred years after it served as a focal point of our National Anthem, the fort was turned into a city park -- later to serve as an Army hospital then Coast Guard station in World War II.
Now, I’d like to provide a little background on the process behind these recommendations.
The current BRAC effort began more than 2 years ago with the development of a 20-Year Force Structure Plan and a top-to-bottom inventory of U.S. facilities worldwide. In fact, one might say the process started even earlier -- with the global posture review that we began in 2001 -- now 4 years ago.
Indeed, the considerations related to global posture fed into the BRAC analysis -- allowing the Department to anticipate and prepare for the return of tens of thousands of personnel and their families. And the knowledge gained by the 2-year global posture review has informed these deliberations in important ways.
Through extensive consultation with the Service Secretaries, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combatant Commanders, a panel of high-ranking military and civilian officials developed criteria and matrices to assess every U.S. facility, every piece of Department of Defense infrastructure and every military base in the United States -- taking into account lessons learned from previous BRAC rounds. As this Committee knows well, the word “base,” includes more than what one traditionally thinks of as a base. It includes ports, airfields, industrial and research facilities, leased space and the like.
A word about the criteria used. In addition to assessments of military value, the Department also examined other key factors, including:
- The economic impact on existing communities in the vicinity of installations;
- The extent and timing of potential costs and savings;
- The ability of existing and potential receiving communities to support forces, missions, and personnel; and
- The environmental impact, including the impact of costs related to environmental restoration, compliance and waste management.
The analyses used certified data under a process monitored by the Government Accountability Office and the Department’s inspection and audit agencies.
The Department is recommending fewer major base closures than had earlier been anticipated, due in part to the planned return of tens of thousands of troops through the global posture review, and also the decision to reduce the amount of leased space to improve force protection. Nonetheless, the changes that will occur will affect a number of communities -- communities that have warmly embraced nearby military installations for a good number of years. The Department will take great care to work with these communities with the respect they have earned and stands ready with various types of assistance.
Specifically, with the support of the President, the Department of Defense, and other departments, are prepared to:
- Provide personnel transfer and job training assistance, in collaboration with the Department of Labor;
- Provide local economic adjustment assistance through the Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment;
- Use our authorities to accelerate and support reuse needs; and
- Work with the Department of Commerce and other federal agencies to assist local economic recovery.
Many local economies impacted by previous BRAC decisions successfully found ways to get positive results out of a situation that at first may have seemed dire -- a tribute to the ingenuity of the American people. All affected communities will not be able to replicate such positive results, of course, but every effort will be made to assist them.
One unavoidable reality of the BRAC process -- as with any change -- is that all of the decisions made will not meet with unanimous acclaim. Inevitably, Members of Congress and other elected officials will urge your Commission to reconsider these recommendations.
Let me say something about the concerns of Members of Congress. Back when I served in the U.S. House of Representatives, I would tell student groups that their Representatives were there for a reason. “Find that reason,” I would say, “and you will have learned something valuable about our country and its people.” Over the years, I have personally met with hundreds of elected representatives. I have found that Members of the House and Senate take their responsibilities to their constituents seriously. And they understandably want to ensure that the BRAC process proceeds with integrity and fairness, and that all their concerns have been taken into account.
Consider the exhaustive review just completed. Senior military and civilian leaders examined an estimated 25 million pieces of data, considered some 1,000 different scenarios, and devoted some 4,000-man hours, while their staffs expended tens of thousands of more hours.
Mr. Chairman, the Defense Department now has completed its statutory role in the BRAC process. Any further decisions, deliberations or analyses will occur under the auspices of your statutory BRAC Commission, the President, and finally the U.S. Congress. Because the BRAC Commission can access more information, and will have the opportunity to hear from potentially impacted communities and can hold hearings, it is possible that the Commission may learn something new and make changes to these recommendations, as have prior BRAC Commissions. We understand that.
I want to thank each of the BRAC Commissioners for agreeing to serve our country by undertaking this important assignment. However, I want to offer one cautionary note as your deliberations proceed. As I mentioned, “jointness” among the Services was introduced as a key criteria for decision-making. The Department recognized that operating jointly reduces overhead costs, improves efficiency and facilitates cooperative training and research. One must be careful about taking a selective look at any one component of these recommendations without considering how that component fits into the larger whole.
Change is never easy. In fact, Abraham Lincoln once compared reorganizing the Army to bailing out the Potomac River with a teaspoon.
And in a case like this, when communities are impacted, change is especially hard. Affected communities have legitimate arguments as to why their military installations should be considered essential.
That's why the BRAC process was created -- to take a long, hard, careful, unbiased look at the overall infrastructure and make tough decisions so we can shift resources to where they are urgently needed.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, the task ahead for you is to help move forces and resources to where they can best provide for our nation’s defense. In doing so, you will bequeath to America an important, and lasting legacy. One you can be proud of.
I thank you for taking on this task, and we look forward to responding to your questions.