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Editorial: NM bases must prepare for another BRAC round

Another round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, is looking likely, and New Mexico – with three Air Force bases and an Army missile range – should embrace the opportunity it provides to save tax dollars while helping ensure our military installations are not only up to date but ready to tackle the future.

A BRAC, which must be approved by Congress, is a Department of Defense process to reorganize its base structure to more efficiently and effectively support U.S. forces and increase operational readiness. At least three members of the powerful House Armed Services Committee are indicating support for a new BRAC, and President Trump is requesting a BRAC in his 2018 budget proposal.

BRACs provide an opportunity to shed unneeded infrastructure and reduce maintenance costs. The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates the military’s upkeep costs for excess infrastructure costs $2 billion annually, money that could be used to upgrade deteriorating military hardware and for other critical needs.

The Air Force and Army in particular are calling for a new BRAC. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee in February the Air Force has “25 percent excess capacity” and could save $25 billion by shedding excess infrastructure. The Army has said it has 21 percent more base infrastructure than it needs, even if it adds 25,000 troops.

It’s important to note New Mexicans did their homework in 1995 and 2005 and Kirtland, Holloman and Cannon Air Force bases and the Army’s White Sands Missile Range came out virtually unscathed from those BRACs, thanks in great part to strong community support and advance planning. It is impossible to overstate the economic impact each site has on its surrounding municipalities and the state.

And while a BRAC can prompt members of Congress to pull out all stops to ensure that no military installations in their district are downsized, a better tactic is to work with those installations to ensure they are right-sized, and with meaningful missions that address national security today and for many tomorrows to come.

With the advent of fifth-generation stealth aircraft, remotely piloted drone warfare, cyber warfare and laser-firing helicopters, it’s obvious the military – and its infrastructure needs – continues to evolve. A new BRAC offers the opportunity to take an objective look at the military’s basing programs, and for New Mexico to again make its best case for its economically important military installations.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.