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N.M. can benefit from an overdue round of base realignments and closures

I read the article in the June 25 Albuquerque Journal on the possibility of another Base Realignment and Closure review and strongly support the need for one.

There have been five BRAC rounds between 1988 and 2005. Despite efforts by the Department of Defense to initiate another round, Congress has consistently resisted one for the last 12 years.

As stated in the article, the Army currently has over 20 percent excess base infrastructure capacity, and the Air Force has over 25 percent. We are wasting billions of tax dollars annually maintaining unneeded DoD infrastructure while the backlog of infrastructure maintenance and repair requirements continues to increase. Because of congressional intransigence, the DoD is forced to waste more and more money that could otherwise be spent to improve and modernize the nation’s war-fighting capability. In the last century, Congress established limits on the number of positions that can be eliminated at a DoD installation or consolidated at another facility without a BRAC. This makes significant changes impossible without a BRAC, and now Congress had made a timely BRAC impossible. This latest political delaying tactic, which has been used for more than a decade, is to repeatedly vote against authorizing another BRAC round. It is inconceivable that any viable private-sector enterprise would operate in this manner.

Our New Mexico legislators are among the obstructionists. According to the article, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., has voted four times to block a BRAC. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., stated he will not support a BRAC because, it is “a hyper-politicized process.” I have been involved in past BRACs, as well as chairing the 1991 Federal Advisory Commission on consolidation of DoD research and development laboratories. In my opinion the BRAC process, while not without faults, is apolitical as executed within the military services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Fortunately, the process was designed to minimize political influence and has been improved with every BRAC round. The Cost of Base Realignment (COBRA) model has been the accepted model for measuring costs and savings, as well as the impacts on military capabilities. The model was improved between BRAC rounds by using lessons learned from previous BRACs.

There was a time in the latter part of the last century when DoD could make timely technical management decisions about consolidating facilities without excessive meddling by politicians. One example is outdoor facilities for radar cross section signature characterization of stealthy aircraft models. In the 1980s there were numerous ground facilities to test models of low observable RCS designs, some of which were located in California. The DoD studied the issue, and in the absence of political interference opted to close most of the facilities and expand the capability of what became the National RCS Test Facility at Holloman AFB. A similar decision was made more than a decade earlier when there was a proliferation of rocket sled facilities at test ranges. Again, the decision was made to close other facilities and expand the one at Holloman AFB. These two examples disprove the assertion by Pearce that the size of political delegations has a significant influence on the DoD facility consolidation process.

In summary, Congress needs to get serious about eliminating the waste of taxpayer dollars, put military needs first and get on with another BRAC round without further delay.