Trump defense budget seeks authorization for base closures in 2021
Burlington County Times. By: David Levinsky
The U.S. Department of Defense released the details of President Donald Trump's military budget for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year, and like numerous spending plans introduced previously, it seeks authorization for another round of base closures.
Trump's $639 billion defense budget calls for military spending to rise $52 billion in the upcoming fiscal year, the largest military increase since President Ronald Reagan was in office, but an amount that some congressional leaders suggest is not enough to restore military readiness for multiple conflicts around the globe.
The budget seeks authorization for a new round of Base Realignment and Closure proceedings in 2021 to address an estimated 20 percent excess in infrastructure capacity.
Congress must approve convening a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission to consider proposed base closures and mission shifts, something it has consistently refused to do during the last four budget cycles.
The last round of closures was over a decade ago in 2005, and Congress has blocked every request made to conduct a new one since, including last year's request by the Obama administration to begin planning for another BRAC in 2019.
Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st of Camden, stressed that the spending plan was just a proposal and that Congress would have the final say on a BRAC and defense spending.
"It’s important to note that this is just a proposed budget, and as such this provision will need to go through the House Armed Services Committee," Norcross said. "As someone who sits on that committee and will help authorize the NDAA, I look forward to working with Rep. (Frank) LoBiondo, a fellow member of the committee who has a shared interest in Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, to ensure our base is not at risk."
Trump's budget specifies that additional base closures could save an estimated $2 billion or more annually. However, members of Congress previously argued that the last round of closures did not produce the anticipated savings.
Typically during a BRAC, the commission examines recommendations by the Department of Defense to close military bases or shift missions to other installations to reduce costs. The commission then makes its own recommendations to Congress for an up or down vote.
The process is scary and contentious for scores of communities across the country that rely heavily on the jobs and economic investment that the bases and their military personnel provide.