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tv   Base Realignment and Closure Process  CSPAN  September 5, 2017 7:17pm-8:32pm EDT

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portfolio. it was 27-foot christmas trees priced like cars, $21,000. it was skull culp -- a cube rock sculpture in for landscaping for $1.2 million. this is the type of waste that's in your government. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. have a look at the base realignment and closure process known as brac. topics include the current view from capitol hill, pending legislation and the prospects for a new round of closures. speakers including former veterans affair secretary who chaired the last brac commission in 2005. the heritage foundation hosts this hour and ten minute event.
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good morning. welcome to the heritage foundation and our auditorium. of course welcome those who join us on our website as well as those joining us on the kprrks spc-span network. mike sure that your mobile devices have been silenced or turned off simply to avoid any unnecessary sash distractions. those watching online, you're welcome to send questions or comments at any time, e-mail speaker at we'll post the program on the heritage home page for your future reference following the presentations today. leading our discussion the fred.
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he's in the center of national defense here at the heritage foundation. please join in welcoming him. fred. >> thanks, john. [ applause ] >> thanks for making the time to come over here on a day of congress being back in town which i assume is a busy one for all of us. i'm going to introduce our guests and explain to everyone if you're here by accident and you don't foe what brac is, i'm going to give you a two-minute introduction to make sure that the audience knows as well and we're all talking about the same thing. so to my left is the assistant secretary of defense for energy and installations experiment at dod. and can provide oversight for the 2005 brac round. he's a retired air force officer with active duty in the air and
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national guard services. to his left is anthony. he was the chairman of the 2005 brac commission. and from 2001 to dwoo2005. he was the secretary of va. he is a graduate of the u.s. naval academy in annapolis. and to his left is andrew hunter. hunter is a senior fellow at the international security program and director of defense industry initiatives group at csis, a senior executive at dod and chief of staff to both ash carter and frank kindle. he also serve as a professional staff member at the house armed services committee before all of that ncis. so brac was created to close and
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realign domestic military bases. the pow tore close military bases is part of the powers of the commander in chief. the executive was able to determine at loan which bases would be closed. in 1977 congress was able to stop all closures fsh highly visible reporting requirements. they were only overcome with the creation of brac. a brac round involves establishing possible closures, dod has a list of actions which are later assessed by an independent 9-person commission before going to the president and congress for approval. the first round of brac took place in 1988 followed by three consecutive rounds in '91, '93 and '95. the fifth and final round took place in 2005.
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now 12 years later authorizing a new round of brac is part of the political discussion. the need is based on estimates that we have 20% of excess infrastructure and the resources dedicated to the upkeep of these bases could be better allocated somewhere else in the defense budget. and to talk about why we need a brac now. the secretary is going to be able to inform us on that. >> appreciate it. thank you so much. and i really appreciate the opportunity to talk here at heritage on this important topic and one that's pretty timely. for those of us who watched the ongoings of congress from day to day, we know that the senate is about to consider the f 19 senate authorization act on the floor. and we do have an amendment pending for the chairman and the ranking member that would provide for an authorization of a line of base alignment closure. it's important to talk with you all, to take questions and be able to talk about why we
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believe the department is in a good place right now and a good position to request an no, sir for base closure and to carry it out with the intent of congress and what they're looking for both in cost savings and the ability to make the military more effective. a couple of quick hits from my background on brac. when i was in the air force and then on the committee and then ultimately serving in a new capacity, i've been in the job for three weeks. two of the week i've been traveling. just got back from six days in guam. so if i start to nod off here on stage, it's because i'm still on guam time. great. if you really look at it, brac has been a great process for the department of defense to take a look at itself. to stand back and say okay where do we need to go with military value. where do we need to look at what is happening in the world of
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weapons systems, e mirjing technologies and how can we best station the forces domestically in order to take advantage of those opportunities provided by installations of infrastructure and to maximize the effect of the weapons and training. if you look back on it, congress has also shared this position and provided authorization for five previous rounds. for those folks who here say there's no way congress is going to authorize a brac, my response is they've done it plenty of times before. i think ultimately congress does believe in the value of being able to do a -- conduct a process which is fair and transparent. if we look at also what the authorization provides -- and again, we need to step back a little bit. people think sometimes that your commission is still in law or that it is a standing authority. the only standing authority that the commander in chief has right now is to close military
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installations. standing in the way of that is section 2867 which provides somewhat onerous reporting requirement that's made it tough for the secretary to get the recommendations up to the hill to have them considered. that's resulted in a separate piece of legislation that allows for the secretary to send in recommendations, develop them and submit them to the commission which will take a look at them and then forward them on to the president. the value of that particular piece of legislation to communities is immeasurable. not that any community actually wants to suffer from a b rxrac round or suffer from a closure, if you look at the actual law, there are only 20 pages that talk about how the secretary will conduct the review and how the commission will consider those recommendations. the rest of the brac law is actually a series of actions that allows communities to
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quickly read about the property. only 100 pages of abbreviated authorities for the establishment of local redevelopment authorities agencies and also an opportunity for funding for the department of defense to assist in the transition. so if you look at it, standing back from what the department is trying to do, brac really does provide not just a transparent process but also a great deal of ability for the department of defense to assist those communities impacted by brac. i think if you look at it from the standpoint, a community that's faced with the reduction of forces or a community that's faced with the potential of being closed, the installation being closed, they much would prefer to do it under the brac process than under standard process where you would declare the property excess and subject it to property disposal act. you go no further than to ask
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the folks in the communities surrounding the naval area in sugar grove, they're still trying to figure out what to do with that. that base was closed by the navy a couple of years ago under the authority other than brac and they're still struggling on how best to use that property. the department asked for a request -- an authorization to conduct a brac for the last five years. in the past the request was based on the justification that there might be an efficiency to be gained, there might be savings to be obtained. that brac offered us an opportunity to see where we may have excess capacity to close or reduce spaces in order to eliminate the capacity there by saving dollars. no doubt that's a noble cause and even in our administration, the current request, that is one of the goals. but vi to say right now that this the n important thing for us at the department of defense
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is the fact that we're undergoing a process within the department for the review and update of the national defense strategy. we're also looking at a whole new realm and era of new technologies, new methods of warfare, emerging capabilities and fifth generation weapons systems. and that really for us needs an update ud bad updated. from the department of defense perspecti perspective, that is the sole and primary reason why congress allowing us to ability to look the our basing to make prudent decisions on where to station the forces. you go back to secretary mattis's three priorities when he took over as secretary of defense. he wants to address concerns, he wants to increase military capabilities and enhance he thalty. for my perspective working for him, the brac process offers us
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the opportunity to address readiness by providing the forces the best possible ranges and installations for them to be stationed at, allows us to consider where we might want to add capability to the department of defense, particularly domestically and it allows us quickly and effectively to increase the forces by coming up with ideal stationing opportunities for combined arms in order to make ourselves for effective and lethal on the battlefield. i'll stop there. but for us, it's not just a matter of finding efficiencies. 's a mat are of improving the military value and the effectiveness of our military forces. that's why we continue to push hard and we support the senate's attempt to try to get a brac authorization inserted into the defense, 2019 defense authorization act. >> well thank you. thank you, fred. and the heritage foundation for having us here today to talk about a very very important
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topic. and i'm pleased to join with my colleagues, my former colleagues in discussing brac. i recall in 1993, after i was leaving the first bush administration, bush 41 i received a call from senator thurman. and i was ready to go back to california and practice law and he says, i need you to be my staff director in armed services because we're going to save charleston from the brac. charleston naval was on the closure list. and i accepted his invitation. and i should have learned my lesson. someone asks you to share a brk brac, you say no thank you and move on. if a brac is authorized in '19 to take place in 2021, that will be 16 years since the last brac round. think about the structure
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changes that have taken place, redungss and strenenning the army, come bath wings, brigades, changes in technology and how that impacts our defense establishment. changing the threat environment. we still have that same footprint. at the same time there's really a brac ongoing but a brac on the radar screen, a stealth brac. of course dod is limited in what they can do in terms of closing military bases. but they're forced because of budget tear restraints to move people. brigades are consolidated and other changes take place so you have a lot of bases with empty buildings that you need to heat and cool. dollars that could better be expended advancing our defense establishment, our national security concern. so one could make the argument that indeed we need to have a brac. and of course the men and women
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charged with leading our defense establishment have been pleading for brac over several several administrations, including just as indicated, the current administration has done so as well. 2005 was unlike any other brac in my view. limited experience in the 1993 brac. in terms of may jr. and minor closures and realignments, it was double the number of all previous brac rounds combined. 190 recommendations that really had 783 distinct closure or realignment actions associated with it. because the way the brac recommendations were structured. and secretary rumsfeld made it very very clear this was not about cost savings, this was about military transformation. and i'm not sure we carried the ball over the goal line but we certainly moved it down the field somewhat. and unlike other previous brac rounds we were asked to evaluate
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recommendations at a time of ongoing conflicts in southeast asia. back in gief. 2005 it was increasing. and the redeployment of 70,000 troops and their families in asia and europe. so that's the context upon which 2005 brac took place. number of things went well. you know, i was blessed to have a commission, a three retired four-star flag officers were army, navy and air force, two former cabinet officials, two former members of congress, both republican and democrat, a former assistant secretary of defense who also served as assistant secretary of defense. really an expert in power matters and a former retired two-star major general who was the head of the air force
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school. so indeed the commission had some people of experience, especially the flag officers inside the military whose advice was invaluable to all of us on the commission. we also had an incredible professional staff who had served on previous brac rounds. details from the pentagon came over to work on the staff. working 24/7 for a period of time. and of course as was mentioned, it was an open transparent process. you never take politics out of it, never take lobbying completely out of it. we tried to make it open, transparent and political. 183 site visits to military installations around the country, 40 hearings around the country and washington and having to produce a report to be submitted to congress. a number of things went wrong. when we were nominated for confirmation by president bush,
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one senator wanted to kill brac so he put a hold on all of our nominations so we had to wait to get recess appointments. the day after we received this volume of information, the recommendations of all of the data, they determined oh my gosh, this is classified when you consolidate all of this information it becomes classified. we had to wait until it was declassified. and that took time. and of course we only had four months upon which to act on all of these recommendations. the cost issues, i mean, you know, the quantitative analysis that is done to determine cost in savings is base on the acumen model, cost of base realignment actions. they found that it was a reasonable calculator to determine what the cost and savings were as you compare these various military bases for closure. but the problem was they
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underestimated the requirements. for example, they estimated implementation cost for new construction to be about $13.4 billion. it turned out to be $25.5 billion. they underestimated the information technology requirements that cost significant amounts of money to implement brac. and very importantly they undere estimated or overestimatesed the personnel cost by saying if you close a military base and move 5,000 people, you have 5,000 troops cost savings but there was no reduction in force structure or end strength. those people were being moved. so the savings they projected at $45 billion over, i think it was ten or 20 years, i don't recall, really was significantly less. so those are some of the things that went wrong that i'm hopeful when the next brac round comes those issues are identified and addressed. >> can i borrow your pen to write some of that done. >> i'll conclude. i think we're blessed to have
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lushan has the secretary of installations in the environment. and knowing basically living brac as a member of the armed services committee, staff on the armed services committee. with that i'll conclude and i'm happy to answer any questions you may have. >> andrew. >> i'm going to talk about the environment for brac on the hill both pig picture and the current situation. i'm going to start big picture and sort of what is the logic of brac. why did brac ever work and why might it work again. i want to start actually with what i think is the keypoint, which is brac always is hard. and it's not popular. it's not something that congress like to do. and so the key element is that there has to be a champion. there has to be someone in congress who is highly respected who is really taking this on and pushing it forward and of necessity that needs to be someone who chairs one of the two armed services committee
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because that's the position you need to be in to really serve as the champion. and in the past various folks have served that role. the last 2005 round it was senator warner who served that role and what is interesting and notable and i think very i guess significant this year is that we have a champion who has stepped forward in senator mccain, along with senator reid, the two of them together to serve as a champion. that is the critical event. and i should recognize obviously congressman smith mhas been thee for some time as a ranking member, pushing the issue and been incredibly helpful and moved the process forward. but as the ranking member he hasn't been in a position to push it through. and that's a key element that's fallen into place this year. the basic formula that the previous brac rounds have operated on is that they start at the level of theory. and so the authority is granted. when there are no specific winners and losers.
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the authority has been granted when in theory everyone could be either a winner or loser. now in reality a lot of members of congress either know or believe that they have a target on their back when it comes to brac and they think they facility is at risk. by the way, there are winners in brac all thoi we think of it as a losing game. i happen to work for one member of congress during my stint on the hill, norm dicks, who gained out of every brac round, gained substantially. and interestingly enough to lushan's point and to the secretary's point about stealth brac, the one facility that didn't benefit from brac and lost a lot of work, which was the shipyard in his direct, just because the navy got smaller, so of course the shipyard got smaller, they never benefitted from brac. there was no brac action that led to the navy getting smaller. it was a decline to the number
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of ships. they lost half their personnel and never received any economic assistance as a result of a 50% decrease in their scope because that wasn't under brac. but under brac he was a big winner. so there are winners in brac and the folks likely to win know who they are. but one of the key formulas has been that the brac formula is granted before the winners and losers have been identified. then when the recommendations come back from the commission, it's an up or down vote and the vote ask to disapprove. you're trying to stop something in process rather than affirmatively voting to close someone else's base. you're voting to keep the process going. and general lly speaking, the winners in the process has been able to say the process worked its will, it's not that we're greedy trying to disadvantage our colleagues but this is the
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process and all we're doing at that point is supporting what's already under way. i'll circle back to that point when we get to where we are with -- in today's -- the current situation in congress. you know, congress has in recent years obviously really struggled to cope with brac. the idea of a new brac round. a number of objections have been raised. obviously the upfront cost during a time when the department of defense was hit with a sudden spending reduction in 2013 as a result of sequestration and the budget control act. obviously there was a strong logic for saving money. but one of the big concerns congress had is right now the first few years of sequestration is when the budget was the lowest and there was the biggest cut and that's when there would have been a large increase in cost if they had done it at that time. at that point. the idea is that funding is
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short ers now but you need money today to start closing the bases which we don't really want you to do anyway. that was not a political winner at that time. upfront cost has always been a concern. the concern of economic impacts in the communities, job losh has been a huge concern for members of congress. as i mentioned, that's tempered by the fact that there's only a relatively small number of folk whose bases actually get closed. ap small number of loses for whom the concern is acute. there has been traditionally a concern, brac originated out of a concern of base closures. every brac round folks have been able to find this. it's one issue that the military value has been so profound. the recommendations need to be based on military value and that gets a little complicated, as the secretary indicated, when
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you have to crunch the number to determine can we turn this military value thing into a number that we can compare it to costs. it's trucky thitricky thing to . and another issue that's concerning to the members of congress is the idea of capacity loss. the theory going that once you give up land you'll never get it back. now, again, lushan didn't make this point directly but the history of the department says that in fact the department has acquired land from time to time over its course. there's nothing that says as a first principle that once you give something up you'll never get it back. but that's generally the theory that congress operated on. even where there's been a mismatch between base structure, congress has always said well, but that's only today. what about ten years from today. what about 20 years from today doing a brac is an irrevocable
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decision that we can't come back from if we determine later that our needs have changed and we've got to move forward. and as lushan explained, that argument actually works both ways. you can develop this mismatch between what we need today and what we have in terms of infrastructure and i agree with him that we are there. so let me talk a little bit about where things stand on the hill. and as i mentioned, the key fact, the most overriding fact is that we now have three champions, three out of four with the senior leaders in the armed services committee. it doesn't guarantee they can get their member to go along with them and vote for it, it's good for a brac round coming to pass. there was a vote on the house side. i don't think it was a terribly perfect predictor as a vote of where the votes actually are in the house. but there was an amendment to the house version of the defense authorization bill on the
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amendment that was to strike a section in the bill that says nothing in the bill shall been interpreted to authorize a brac. that was protective language because there's other language in the bill because there have been prior brac rounds, some still being executed that talks about authorizing brac activities. and they wanted to make it clear that's the old brac rounds. there's nothing in here to do a new brac round. brac legislation is over 200 pages long. it's a bit of a stretch that anything would be interpreted to authorize a brac but that language is there nonetheless. voting against that, striking that language may not mean that someone is irrevocably opposed to brac. it was easy for a member to say this language is harmless. why do we need to strike it out. but the vote was 175-248. it was balanced between
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republican and democrat. so there was support in both parties for striking that language and obviously some significant amount of resistance to striking it. the one thing i would say as a long time house staffer, unlike in the senate where each vote is its own struggle to get one vote, votes in the house come in blocks. they don't come one by one they come in tens and 20s because like minded members tend to vote together and you have regional groupings that vote together. if you turn a vote in the house, you haven't turned one vote, you've generally turned 10 to 15 votes, sometimes 20 to 30 depending on size of the block that you're working with. that vote 175, you need 218, is only about two to two and a half blocks away from becoming a yes in the house. and that's really not that far when you think about it. if you can address some of the current concerns that congress has had. so i think it's not necessarily that far away in the house with the leadership and the senate
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coming along board. and i should say historically it's always been the senate that's taken the lead on brac, made it happen and i don't see any reason to believe that's likely to change. there is real hope this year that that might be able to get there. now, the other point that i think is worth making is that the hill did -- i can't remember if it was last year or this year before did authorize the department to do the excess capacity analysis that has now become one of the major justifications or bases for the request for brac showing that there's 22% express infrastructure. so that also was a bit of a weakening in the resistance in congress to the idea of a brac. one interesting thing about that is that of that 22%, almost none of it is department of navy. the navy really essentially took a knee on brac, said we've probably done enough. and notwithstanding that there were some recommendations in prior rounds that never were
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executed or turned down by the commission where you might have thought that the navy would think to go again. the navy is very good at detecting clear messages and they saw that handwriting on the wall. the excess capacity is really in the army and the air force. i'm not sure what political dynamic that has. that might free member to feel favorable to brac. it may make them -- it's hard to know the political dynamics of that. it may make it less compelling because there's less opportunity to game. not going to be as many navy winners as there has in the past. i suspect it's significant that the navy didn't really identify any excess capacity. and you know the last thing i'll say is that, you know, brac was really the cure for this overriding concern about politicization and really to some extent the cure was perceived to have become the disease. people felt like the brac process itself had become
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problematic. and so both in congressman smith's version of the bill that he's introduced and has done for several years and now in the draft that senators mccain and reed has released for discussion, they've tried to address the idea that the cure needs to be the cure again and not the disease. and so fundamental questions that the hill is likely to work on is this question of there needs to be an independent ash to arbiter to make sure that politicization hasn't crept in. thauld should that be another brac commission or should it be some other process and the senate proposed using gao as an ar by tore and then letting congress itself make the final call about whether they think the round is correct or not. one of the issues about that, as i mentioned earlier, previously they've always had the initial vote when there were no winners
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or losers and then it was defending that position later on. and then the senate's formulation essentially you would know who the winners and losers were when congress is being asked to vote for it. there's a relatively small relatively small number of losers so that could certainly work. but in the past, the theory has been when you know whose bases you're targeting with your vote, and that may be your friend or colleague or ally on other issues, it makes it harder, even for those who are not affected by brac to vote for it. and i'll stop there and move on to the question. >> thank you, senator. one of the things that andrew brought up that lucien can address is the capacity analysis done in march of 2016. the document has served in all the arguments on quantifying the excess capacity.
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secretary nemeyer, talk about what it does say and what it doesn't say and what are the limitations? >> there's been a concern in congress for many years, what are you really using as the analysis to justify your request for an authorization? when i was on the committee staff working for senator warner and mccain, we asked the same questions. the concern was at a time when we're looking into growing rift or growing distinction or difference between the threats we face as a nation, we have gradually addressed the threats and the forces we are providing on behalf of our nation to meet that strategy, there's a concern there that we were not taking into account the full range of threats or really using the brac request as an yunds punderpinni the strategy. for a few years congress said, can you provide justification on why you think you have excess capacity? and really it's difficult for the department to do that without actually conducting the brac grounds. so what congress has been asking
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give us the analysis without -- before we give you the authorization. and the response from congress has been we need the authorization to do the analysis. so we have an off-ramp. people don't realize the law does provide that after the first year of analysis, looking at the forestructure, looking at the defense strategy, looking at what we have for threats around the world decides, you know what? i've done the analysis. don't believe it's worth the expanse to find the savings or we need to continue. then he certifies to congress that does not believe that brac should go forward and that stops. it's always in the law and still exists in the proposal. so what congress is trying to do is get a better understanding for where the department feels it's at. and it is hard for the department to do the analysis without causing concern, without creating hysteria out there as far as what they're actually
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looking at as far as bases. there has been no analysis until we get the authorization and there will be no analysis accomplished until we do get the authorization. the idea and the notion that there is a list of the closures running around the department of defense is false. still congress persisted with the legislative request in the 2015 authorization act to try to give us something. the department undertook a process trying to grapple with, okay, how do we do this without necessarily starting a brac analysis. they came up with the idea to take a look at the ratio of forces existing in 1989, or '88. look at the ratio of forces of the infrastructure we had then and apply it to the current fore structure. the original analysis was done looking at what then the department of defense in 2016 felt like the infrastructure would be in 2019. although congress asked for it to be applied to a fore structure that existed in fy 12.
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the department sent over the first report to congress in april 2016 that showed 22% excess capacity across all d.o.d. based on the ratio of analysis, looking at it objectively, and ultimately this is what secretary mattis did. i'm looking at 1988, was that the right ratio of the infrastructure and has that now become how we apply this forward? i think that's some of the concerns he raised in the testimony earlier this year about that capacity analysis and whether we do have 22%, 25%, 28% in the air force. i know there are concerns that still exist about that. still, we try to do the best we could. the department tried to do the best we could with the authorities we had and to come up with what we felt was the best guess. and that's ultimately what you saw delivered to congress. first in april of 2016, now congress is asking us to update that report and to accurately reflect what they asked for, which is an fy12. we are in the process of working that package back to congress.
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>> one of the things that gets brought up multiple times since the 2005 round was uniquely transformational. there was the emphasis of jointness. and one question that i personally have is that if brac is the adequate venue to do this transformation. and i think the secretary could be able to comment on it if it was the appropriate venue to do those transformations and to emphasize jointness. and a lot of the answer to that starts with what instruments does d.o.d. have. would you mind commenting on that, secretary? >> the transformation is not synonymous with jointness or co-location. if you look at the 2005 round, many of the recommendation we received were within each service. there wasn't that much cross-service integration, if you will.
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there was some, but clearly that wasn't overriding. so i think it is an opportunity for the secretary of defense to move the ball down the field with in terms of true transformation of our armed forces to get really more operational effectiveness in joint war fighting, training and readiness. but clearly the cost savings has to be an important factor. and whether that is raised to be one of the military value criteria is really up to the congress. it is not a military value criteria. it wasn't in 2005. important, yes, but again, as i indicated, it was a clear charge to the commission that the secretary rumsfeld was really more concerned about this transformation of our military and how it was structured. and going forward, i think it's going to be an important factor,
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but i also think the cost savings is going to be equally important if not more important. >> so i have been wrestling with the product of transformation. i think that was really a product of where the bush administration was trying to get with the round. it's also a great way to separate where the previous administration, obama administration, wanted to go where they wanted efficiency based versus transformational based. i'm not sure how you can do one without the other. every brac authorization looks at better ways to do things. you call that transformational, so be it. what i really am much more concerned with is how to enhance lethality. in the united states we may not be ideally placed to get to readiness every day. it is really difficult to send the military forces somewhere else in the united states to train when they are already deployed for one year out of
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every two or three years. so we need to look at, how do we ultimately station those forces at locations that can be more effective, more efficient and a wider array of full spectrum training close to where they actually live and where their families are. if you call that transformational, okay, fine, then we'll have a bit of transformation. i look at that as just increasing readiness and lethality, where we position weapon systems to have the best access for the ideal ranges for the weapon system, i'm not sure that is transformational. i would just call that being ready to make sure we're ready to go when the time comes. opposed to putting a label on what this round is going to be, what this round is going to be, i think what we're looking at is a round that will allow us to take a national defense strategy, look at how that informs military value. coming out of our strategy,
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we'll have a clear indication of what the military value needs to be for installations and providing that to stations of forces. i think really to me that is what we should be focusing on. >> go ahead. >> let me jump in on this, this could be the key point on this, because i was always concerned with the obama administration saying it's all about savings, savings, savings. the nature of the legal restrictions on moving people and on moving and closing facilities mean that it is a department is very limited in what it is able to do aside from outright closures or reductions in force, in terms of optimizing its use of its assets. it's base infrastructure. so the department is not typically thought of bases as assets. in a lot of cases, it boils down to cost. so this idea of whether the next brac would be to optimize our strategic posture or the savings
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drill is just, those are two essentially fundamental different exercises. not unrelated. >> they are. i'm a military guy and i'm responding to my secretary of defense that says we're going to save money in the next brac, we're going to save money too. >> and you can save money. optimizing there's a cost savings opportunity there to be had, but it's a very different going in point for posturing versus saying we have a budget cut and we're going to go find some savings. >> one of the questions i have is on resistance congress has been showing to authorizing a new round. you start talking about four different things if i'm not mistaken. costs, economic impacts, political process and how that becomes about politics, and the capacity they hold. how much of those concerns are real concerns that need to be addressed for changes in the
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brac process and how much of those simply excuses to avoid a painful process? >> well, i think they are all real at some level. i would say none of them as illegitimate as a concern at all. i would say of all of them, the upfront cost one, it is actually true that there's an upfront cost. it is also, i think, in some ways the weakest reason to oppose brac because if your answer is, i can't vote for brac, then you're ungettable. your vote is unattainable because there's always an upfront cost involved. if that's your objection, there's no way to get to yes. so it's the most problematic of the reasons for me for that reason. there are economic implications. lucien has pointed out very correctly the best way to address those is through a brac.
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the brac authority gives you the ability to work with communities and reduce or minimize or reverse the job loss by utilizing the land base, the facility through some other means. i get the wonderful opportunity every year to go out to monterey and go to post-graduate school for work we do there and seeing the development that has happened up and around this to take some time. but it's been a real success story. that would not have been possible if we didn't have brac authority. but it's a decision by the department to close without any assistance to the community. so that's the job and economic piece, you can turn that around to get on board with brac because they stand to gain from having that authority. the politicization in the
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2005 round but some feel that's the case. there was a lot of outrage in 1997 when the clinton administration said we were going to privatize in place some of the facilities on the brac ground. i think history has somewhat worn out the decision because there's still work going on in san antonio that suggests that the economic rationale for staying there may have made sense. i think that's really the tricky one. how do people feel comfortable that it's been addressed. how do you get the number of votes you need to make people feel they can support that new process. >> let me follow-up on that a little bit. for a few, i actually was part of the resistance in congress to authorize another brac. there are a couple things here that we were paying attention to very much in the committee when the department was coming over for the brac request. first of all, they were saying
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we're cutting forces, therefore we have excess infrastructure and we need to cut infrastructure. not everybody in the committee felt like cutting forces was the right thing to do. and it was the force of cutting the budget and not military strategy. a lot of folks felt like the strategy was nowhere concerned with the threat of the nation. so there was a feeling if we felt like we were heading the wrong direction before structure reductions, there's no way we would allow the department to reduce infrastructure. so definitely was a concern on strategy resources and threats mismatched that kind of fueled some of the initial reaction to authorizing a brac. there also was a concern that we needed to change the law and update it and there was no way mccain was going to allow in a $14 billion cost overrun in 2005.
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and there's a lot of reasons for that, but bottom line that's an aircraft carrier there. so my charge was if we're going to look at the authorization for another round, we have to update the law, not change it fundamentally, but update it to put more cost controls, greater transparency and a little bit more accountability into the process. and so that never came over from the department of defense. and that really was a huge sticking point that we asked for improvements to the actual law and those were not provided. now, you do have congress in the brac authorization that does contain some of the cost controls. still working with my colleagues in the department, to a degree of what those could be carried out, that's something we'll need to take a look at moving forward to see what gets authorized. those major concerns kept us from entertaining the idea and something to look at. the law does need to be updated to allow for a more effective
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round and more efficient round without seeing the cost balloon up. >> i would add that i think we need to keep in mind that many of the costs associated with my brac ground in 2005 came after implementation. just one example, the national geospatial agency facility was budgeted at $1.1 billion and the final cost of that was $2.5 billion. and you can go to mark center, you can go to the vast amount of construction, major military construction that took place after 2005, it was just astronomical. a little gold plating went into it. but i think the commission implemented the law as it was drafted. i mean, we approved 86% of the recommended closures and realignments, that's the historical average.
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we did disapprove a number of major closures. the marine base, which we learned was the center of excellence in submarine warfare. the naval shipyard, we learned was the most cost effective productive shipyard in the navy. they could turn around a nuclear sub and refuel a nuclear sub faster than any shipyard in the navy. the data that went into the pentagon to justify that it was used by the pentagon was not the data we received. it was different. so i think that was one advantage of the commission itself. that's not to say you cannot have a brac without a commission, you certainly can, but we also were detailed. i met with him and the comptroller several times to talk about the recommended
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closures and realignments. so i think some of these costs came out after the implementation in 2005. >> one last thing on congressional resistance, for my time on the committee and the entire 11 years i met with every defense community in the country. since i left the committee in 2014, the last three years i have talked to just about every state in the country. and i'm not so sure there's not a growing realization that a brac provides more opportunities for basis than threats. if you talk to the defense communities, you see the majority of them, there's more and more communities and states willing to sign up and tell the delegations, yes, we want a brac. we have bases with high military value that are 60% to 70% utilized. they realize ultimately they are going to get potentially stronger. so i'm thinking that you are starting to see a growing swell of support for what brac can do for the opportunity for those
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bases that feel that they have a significant contribution to national security. that ultimately is what it should be about. we're looking at the country should embrace a process that allows us to put our forces at locations that ultimately will provide the most benefit and the most effective force available at the most efficient cost. so i have a feeling that the congressional resistance, if senators and congressmen talk to their defense communities over the next few weeks to figure out where to vote on brac, i'm hoping that senators take the opportunity to talk to their defense leaders and talk to their generals. i mean, the national guard, those generals who took advantage of the brac process in 2005 got really well really fast because they were able to close readiness centers that were underperforming in poor demographic areas and move over to emerging demographic areas
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and able to make themselves much stronger. folks are listening to their tags and defense communities and states. i think you're starting to see folks say brac is the right time. we have been working for ten years on improving the military value and think we have a better product to provide for the department of defense. therefore, bring it on, we're ready for it. >> i guess my view this is why having a champion is so important. the department is not optimized to carefully craft and revise legislative proposals for this. i think the senator is, that's his skillset, and i think having a champion to do that work of improving the legislation, that's the key difference. >> thank you. i wanted to ask one question to the panel before we open up to questions from the audience. is there a better way to close facilities other than brac?
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>> secretary of defense? >> three weeks on the job, i take the hard questions and pass them over to the old guy. >> you would hope in the ideal world our military lead erks both civilian and uniform, could make those decisions with congressional oversight. come up with some kind of format where you determine if there was significant deviation from military value criteria without the need for a brac commission. but clearly it starts with the secretary of defense. he's the one who is charged with our national security. and perhaps it is increased authority, if you will. and again, you -- there's no limitations on the number of military personnel that can be
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moved. there are limitations with regard to personnel, but you can move combat brigades. you can move air wings. you can do all of that. and it's happening. and it's the people that bring communities to life, not the buildings, not empty buildings, not the chain link fence around the army installations. that doesn't serve the community very well. so, you know, i think the role of the secretary of defense is fundamental and very important in the decisions to close and realign military bases. >> i guess in my ideal world, the law would be less rigid. and the department would have more flexibility to move folks including civilian personnel because it's hard to move large numbers of military without also affecting a relatively significant number of civilian folks. they would have more flexibility to optimize infrastructure, to strategy, infrastructure for structure over time.
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it would be reasonable for congress to say if you're going to closure, check with us first. there could be safeguards around that, but i do feel like the statute could be opened up and narrowed successfully over the years saying to reduce the size of actions that you can take without congressional approval, they could open that back up and you might not need a full background again for a very long time. i mean, obviously it's been a while since the last one, but i would say we needed it for much of the time that we haven't had it. and i think you can make it unnecessary to have brac authority over longer periods of time with the law to give the department more flexibility to optimize. >> i think ideally, you want to go back to what our founding fathers intended and that is the commander in chief should have the ability to open or close bases as he or she determines to be in the best interest of the national defense. i would love to go back to those days. and just have congress at least
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be advised in making some type of consent. that's what the amendment by senator mccain tries to get back to to some extent. we'll see what degree of politics plays in that process. unfortunately, that's what has happened in the last 20 years. when the secretary of defense looks at the base closure, that does involve jobs and politics. but yes, if i had an opportunity to do it all over again, i would like to go back to the discretion of the secretary of defense advising the president of the united states to say, look, we don't need this base anymore. it's time to close it and save the dollars. >> one aspect of the mccain/reid amendment dealing with the vote as lucien indicated, or andrew in 2005, it took a vote of disapproval. now according to the amendment if i'm correct, it requires an approval. is that going to inject more politics in it? is that going to stop, can any senator put a hold on the
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provision of law? that establishes brac. so that one aspect of concern how it would play out. >> not to mention the senate has an empty calendar with nothing else to consider. with that we'll open up for questions from the audience. please ask your question in the form of a question. i believe we have a microphone. and please identify yourself. if you want to direct a question to anyone, also, say so. andrew? >> i'm from bloomberg. do you think brac will become the sticking point for the national defense authorization in the senate and going forward to congress if the senate is successful in passing the mccain amendment? do you think it will be "the" sticking point? >> i'll take a first crack at it. i guess my quick answer would be no.
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it's certainly true historically it has played that role in the past. the former chairman bob stump got up at one point ready to bail out on the nda altogether as a as a result of brac and ultimately they reached an agreement, but they came close to failure. it is not my sense that he is that opposed to brac and would walk away from the nda. i haven't had a personal conversation with him or his staff director on this point, but i don't sense that his level of resistance is at that, if you will, bob stump threshold of opposition. so i wouldn't see this as being a bill killer. well, the way they have structured it, that was a decision by senator mccain and reid to hold the proposal back, not put it in the committee bill, and have it on the floor. not to get us derailed, but there was another controversial
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provision on don't ask don't tell where they went a different route and put it in the bill in committee and it almost killed the bill because they couldn't get to the floor. but structuring it the way they have, look, it will either pass or fail as an amendment. if it's got the votes to go as an amendment, it can't be a bill killer because it has substantial support. so the way they have structured this, i don't see it being a huge barrier in the senate. >> next question. >> thank you, my question is for secretary nemeyer. you mentioned one of the improvements that is needed for the brac law is the cost controls put in there, especially after the 2005 round. i'm curious if you can comment on the mccain reid amendment as we were discussing and whether or not that contains the provisions that you're looking
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for. >> it does. it provides the overall cost of limitation. i think 5 billion if i'm right. so that is a good first step. i'm not so sure now that i'm on the department side that i want to be capped by that. i was hoping they would trust me as far as keeping the cost down. but there's also in the smith version, there's also the requirement for the department to develop more detailed estimates beyond that of cobra. i think there was the understanding that cobra as a modeling for doing certain scenario assessments was a very useful tool to be able to set aside certain scenarios and to pursue others. but at some point you have to move beyond cobra and do more engineering analysis on what the recommendation would cost. the smith amendment does provide for some of those requirements through the form of plans to be submitted along with the recommendation. not sure to what degree the department could implement that. it's something to take a look
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at. but it really was, those are the types of things that he was trying to get congress to be able to put some type of control. the 2005 round unfortunately, congress said very minimal authorization for ability to do anything about the explosive growth of the brac request. that is something that the house and senate are wrestling with with different solutions. >> thank you. sandra irwin with nuclear defense. i wanted to ask secretary nemeyer about this whole idea that you want to optimize readiness and make that a big part of the analysis. can you say who is involved in doing the analysis right now? where does that stand? and when do you expect to have some actual recommendations on that? >> so we are not doing any
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analysis on this as far as brac analysis, we are looking at to what degree our current ranges can support the generation weapon systems. the discussions are happening every day in the military. to what degree we can support the president's energy policy by adjustments in range policies or access to ranges. so there's a lot of discussion and the secretary is charging each of us to immediately address the readiness concerns that exist, not just in infrastructure but also in training and manning. so there's a lot of analysis going on there. now, how that would apply, that connection hasn't been made because we don't have the authorization for a brac ground yet. that's one of the first things we want to do is to look how readiness the capabilities are addressed many the national defense strategy. and then take that defense strategy and apply it to military value and then start
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looking at, okay, how does that apply to the infrastructure ranges. so we have not done any analysis looking at realignments or closures or anything to do with any type of system or base. we are strictly looking at what infrastructure we have now and how to best use what we have now to maximize readiness. [ inaudible question ] >> that's a good question. that's definitely on top of my mind. there's a lot of discussion going on within the joint chiefs at secretary of defense. i'm not sure exactly when we're going to see that. >> i think one thing i want to throw on the table, this is a readiness and the range issue is the opportunity potentially in a new brac ground to look at the ability to do more public and private partnership and cut down some of the upfront investment required on the government's end by having some private capital invested as well. and if you look at, if you look at the ranges, the training
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ranges, if you look at the d.o.d. labs, and the tne infrastructure, these are real national assets and they have value beyond just the military mission. and so we have an opportunity there to leverage and not just improve, not just make a one-time improvement to readiness, but the ongoing improvement by bringing in private capital that would get some access to these national assets in return. i think there's a real opportunity there in this up opportunity there in this round. so i'm hoping the language is flexible enough to make those opportunities viable. one of my concerns about the approach in the last administration is about savings, savings, savings is you couldn't maybe do more of the creative things. >> and it is operational costs, whether it is in services, building joint plants that served the grid in the community and the military base, there are a lot of ways that the military can save money and partner with the community to advance some of
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those services. and a better position for the installation to survive a brac ground. >> one of the underrated elements that is open to discuss is how fragile the brac process is for the sheer amount of offramps that you have throughout the process. and i think it was secretary nemeyer that started talking about that, after there is an actual study, if congress thinks that it is inadequate, it can stop the process there. >> the secretary of defense can stop the process. once a brac is authorized and congress can unauthorized a brac process. what i was talking about, once a brac is authorized, the secretary of defense has the ability to say now that i've done the in-depth analysis you
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wanted me to do, i just don't know how far to go. >> in the same token, almost having it in 2005 is that it was not confirmed. if the commissions were not confirmed, you would stop the authorization to break ground as well. those types of steps i was referring to in legislation. is there any other questions from the audience? >> i have a question about the costs of the brac. there has been a criticism that the cost has escalated beyond what the estimates of the department were. in the previous brac grounds and the previous five brac grounds, environmental remediation was not considered one of the costs. there seems to be an indication in senator mccain's amendment and some of the house language that environmental remediation
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would be included as a cost. in the past, this has had essentially two implications. the environmental costs have just skyrocketed. they are unknowable as secretary insipius said. it's a cost that goes up and you never know until you open up the ground. the environmental costs were not included in the previous rounds because it was considered a governmental responsibility. the government has to clean it up whether the base is open or closed so it's not a unique cost to brac. and secondly, if you included, there's a tremendous biased to only close clean bases. because you put one shipyard on the list like hunter's point, you've blown your $5 billion cap right there. so should the environmental remediation costs be include
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in the process. >> let me begin from 2005, apart from the four military criteria, you have the four economic criteria. one of those has to do with the environmental remediation. but the remediation is not to future uses like redevelopment to a residential community. it's cleanup to its current use, military use. so you're absolutely right. it's not for redevelopment, even to close the military base. and it's going to be redeveloped as we talked about like there at the brac in many, many places. those costs have to be born by the community or the developers that are going to come in and redevelop san diego or redevelop newport or whatever it might be. >> i'm taking a different perspective from my understanding. the reason why the department in the past set aside environmental costs, you did not know, you
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would have to anticipate what the propose you might be to hold the discussion with the community. also, i think there really wasn't enough environmental data available in the previous rounds of brac. the department of defense has done a tremendous job over the last ten years investigating what they have on their military bases. i think what you look at in the proposed legislation is, at least the accounting preliminary analysis determines what you have. and to make some magnitude of what you might have to clean up in those costs. but i agree, it would definitely disadvantage the sites and bases that are clean. and it would advantage the sites that are having a lot of clean up. so i think the department, we still have work to do under incorporating this into the analysis as a final element in assessing the recommendation.
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>> and now one last question. travis with "washington examiner." i think the chairman has talked about the upfront costs which you suggested puts people in this ungettable vote category. so i'm wondering if you see his opposition as being a key if not the key hurdle and whether you think there's any possibility of a political compromise between chairman thornberry and chairman mccain and the democrats in the armed services. >> i think there is room for a compromise. you know, as lucien indicated, the idea of capping the upfront costs or at least scaling it in some way that congress can then control. so maybe they can set a cap and if the department came back to say you gave us $8 to $10 trillion in the long run, we can do more useful stuff and
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congress can revisit that number. but i think the idea of setting some kind of an ability for congress to have some measure of control over how much they're putting in in terms of the upfront costs and ongoing costs, i think that is the basic grounds for compromise on that issue. i know it can be -- it could be very limiting depending on how it's written and how hard of a cap it has made, but it's a ground for a reasonable compromise between the two sides on that issue. i didn't mean to imply that i think chairman thornberry is an ungettable vote, but he may not want to vote for this. there's a big difference between not willing to vote and torpedoing the vote. it is just to make it something he can live with.
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>> also as a veteran of 11 national defense authorizations conference, there's also the ability for him to give up on one thing in order to get something else. i'm not sure there's a conference where members who are the big four don't come away having had to take an unsavory position they didn't agree with either because they had to do it for the sake of the bill or were able to get something in return on the compromise. >> with that, thank you so much. i really appreciate you guys coming over to speak to us about brac. i think we have sandwiches outside or no? sorry. thank you so much for coming over. and please join me in a round of applause to our panelists. [ applause ]
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