Carrying out the Pentagon’s recommended base closures will cost $24 billion up front and may not lead to the substantial savings the Defense Department is projecting, according to a new government report released Friday.
The 2005 base-closure round, if enacted, will shutter 33 major bases nationwide and significantly realign hundreds more. The nine independent members of the base-closure commission, who have the power to overturn Pentagon recommendations, are currently meeting with affected cities nationwide, listening to appeals from locals to save their bases.
Commissioners have until Sept. 8 to decide whether or not they approve of the Pentagon recommendations.
On Friday, the Government Accountability Office reported that although the Pentagon will save money by closing bases, “the precise magnitude of savings is uncertain.”
The Pentagon has said it would save $50 billion over 20 years based on the cuts, but the GAO countered that the savings from the closed facilities is only a small fraction of the total. The vast majority of the projected savings comes from “eliminating jobs currently held by military personnel.”
The problem with that assessment, the GAO found, is that most of the jobs targeted aren’t actually being eliminated. Instead, they are “expected to be reassigned to other areas, which may enhance capabilities but also limit dollar savings.”
The GAO also said the savings expected from streamlining business processes cannot be validated. For example, its recommendation to create naval “fleet readiness centers” that combine maintenance duties “is estimated to yield $215 million in annual recurring savings as a result of overhead efficiencies, but such assumptions have not been validated.”
Chris Hellman, a defense analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, said that even if closures save no money they’re still needed.
Hellman said the base-closing process “has become less about saving money than it has been about how moving around chessmen on board contribute to transformation and jointness. Even if you save no money or cost, if it gets the forces better equipped to meet the needs of the 21st century, then that is a wise investment.”
(E-mail Tara Copp at CoppT(at)shns.com.)