Rounds of military base closures inside the United States over the years have amounted to some of the biggest savings for the U.S. government - about $7 billion per year since the 1990s, and $4 billion annually since the round of closures in 2005. Despite the savings, a lot of communities wish to avoid military base closings because of the economic impact on the area ... or do they?
Representatives of these communities are practically begging for Congress to take action, even if it means their own neighborhood installation might close: better to know now and begin to move on than be strung along. Abusing taxpayer dollars to support wasting assets or rusting eye sores that are not maintained does not make constituents feel better. It only serves politicians.
Mackenzie Eaglen, billed by Defense News as "one of the most 100 influential people in US defense," says that base closures used to be matched with a reduction in civilian workforces from military operations. That's how it's supposed to work. But since the peak of the military buildup at home post-9/11, there has been a reverse corollary between the number of troops at military bases and the number of defense civilians, meaning that the Pentagon isn't actually getting smaller, it's just less military-ready because it's hiring independent contractors rather than members to serve the armed forces.
Eaglen says the cause is directly linked to the lack of any recent base closures.
Base closures offer the only meaningful path to trim the nearly 800,000-strong workforce of Pentagon civilians.
Seems like reducing the Pentagon's civilian labor force would be bad for communities, but Eaglen argues otherwise.
While it is understandable to be concerned about employment, Congress needs to remember that nearly all communities recover well from closures. Bergstrom Air Base was turned into a thriving airport. More than 150 businesses now exist on the waterfront that was once the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Army bases have been turned into national parks and university campuses.As lawmakers look to reverse the military’s drawdown, they would be wise to right-size the bloated defense civilian workforce and unlock the economic potential of communities affected by base realignment and closure. ... There is no reason beyond stubbornness to maintain bases for 17 brigades that even defense hawks believe the Army does not need.
Eaglen notes that while the military has shrunk overseas, depleting its ability to respond to regional aggressions, the same changes haven't occurred at home. Meantime, the Pentagon acknowledges that it's overdeveloped.
In 2016, the Pentagon estimated that the Army and the Air Force each have about 33 percent more infrastructure than needed, nearly all of them in the United States. A new round of closures would cost $7 billion upfront and generate $2 billion in annual savings each year thereafter. These savings can then be reinvested into readiness and combat power.
The military is a great place to build a career, but it shouldn't be treated by politicians like another community bailout or local special interest project. Responsible spending on military power makes the U.S. a safer nation, but not when those resources are wasted at home when they could be used positioning America to project its strength abroad.
What do you think about closing down military bases at home and redeveloping military bases to provide other services? Comment below.