Another Push for BRAC

The Air Force “needs” another round of base realignment and closure, Miranda Ballentine, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, energy, and the environment, told lawmakers Thursday. Ballentine, speaking before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, said the service has reduced the number of its combat-coded fighter squadrons by nearly 60 percent—from 134 to 55—since the Gulf War, yet BRAC has reduced USAF bases by only 15 percent during that same time. She attempted to allay lawmakers’ concerns by noting a recent Association of Defense Communities survey of community leaders found about 92 percent believed the status quo of hollowed-out bases, reduced force structure, and reduced investments is worse for their communities than another round of BRAC. Previous rounds of BRAC, she said, save the Air Force $2.9 billion each year, and new rounds will save more. The Air Force, she said, has a 30 percent excess infrastructure capacity, but excess isn’t the only problem. Ballentine noted earlier in the hearing that while the service’s Fiscal 2017 budget request calls for $1.8 billion in military construction—a 14 percent increase over Fiscal 2016—she expects the service’s backlog of degrading facility requirements to grow. The service’s Fiscal 2017 budget request only funds 30 of the 500 top-priority projects submitted by major command commanders, she said. “Twenty-four years of continuous combat and a fiscal environment constrained by [the] Budget Control Act have truly taken their toll,” she said. (Find Ballentine’s prepared testimony here. See also: The Long Road for BRAC from the February issue of Air Force Magazine.)