Base closures won’t happen until after 2013, congressman says

U.S. Rep. John R. Carter, vice chairman of the military construction subcommittee, predicted the base realignment and closure process, more commonly called BRAC, could start in 2015 or 2016.

“Hope it’s not ’14, but it could be ’14,” the Texas Republican, whose district includes the Army’s sprawling Fort Hood, said in a recent interview with the Dayton Daily News. “But it won’t be ’13.”

The Obama administration expected a round of BRAC next year, the first since 2005, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pulled back on the request because of concern how it would impact a struggling economy.

“I went to a meeting with him and he gave his us his blood oath that wouldn’t happen,” Carter said.

Carter’s committee had oversight of more than $350 million in BRAC-related construction spending at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base since 2005. The air base had a net gain of about 1,200 jobs and acquired new commands, such as the 711th Human Performance Wing, which included the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, from Brooks-City Base, Texas in San Antonio.

The congressman toured Wright-Patterson on Friday with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to see how the money was spent on base.

The communities best equipped to fight against BRAC are those that can make a case for what the base offers, he said.

“It’s a very nervous time for anyone who has a military facility at the time of BRAC,” he said. “We feel we have products that are very defendable and certainly has proven historically that both Wright-Patterson and Fort Hood are defendable in the BRAC process.

“Really, I think the key component in defending your post or your base against the BRAC process is having a good product to defend,” he said.

“We are going to fight our wars with technology. People are important and they will all be in the war process, but technology makes winners.”

Still, he said he sees a role for BRAC.

“There is a role for BRAC because the truth is no community is going to be willing, no political force in a community is going to be willing to say our little Air Force base or our little Army base out there is not important. Put it on the chopping block. Everybody is going to fight for every post on Earth.”

In a related note, Carter said “hardheadedness” has hurt attempts to find a solution to avoid defense budget sequestration.

“It is a very partisan world and that there’s a lot of hardheadedness” in a presidential election year, he said.

The Defense Department could face $500 billion in cuts over a decade if the federal lawmakers don’t reach an agreement to avoid the cuts beginning Jan. 2. The reductions are in addition to $487 billion the department will absorb through 2023.

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