What the president’s BRAC proposal means for Huntsville

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – In his 2016 budget proposal, the president calls for another round of BRAC, or Base Realignment and Closure.

Wondering where you’ve heard that before? Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Public Affairs Mike Ward has the answer, “The last three budgets the president has proposed included additional rounds of BRAC.”

Congress has not gone along with those calls, but back here at the chamber, where they wait on bated breath for BRAC, they think this year’s proposal may carry a little more weight.

Ward points out, “Typically BRACs are authorized to happen in non-election years.”

We broke down the odds of a new round of BRAC making it through this year with Ward. He puts the odds at 25-percent or less, but he adds that in the past two years, he would have put it at less than 5-percent.

On the one hand, a BRAC is five times more likely to get congressional approval this year. On the other hand, it’s still just a one-in-four chance.

Of course at the chamber they can’t just track the political likelihood, they also need to keep a finger on the pulse of the defense department. Here’s the sense Ward has, “The military recognizes the reality of the situation with the budgets that they’re facing, and this is something that they genuinely think they need.”

Ward adds that Huntsville could do quite well if another BRAC does occur soon, “There’s more opportunity than threat for us.”

The call for the BRAC in the president’s budget proposal looks to lower the Department of Defense’s Major Headquarters’ Operating Budget by 20-percent, so some places could see huge cuts.

But Ward says we have a distinct advantage, “The capital investment that they have on the Arsenal makes it very difficult to move those things away.”

It’s come up roses for us before. Ward lists off, “The 2005 round brought us the AMC headquarters, the Space and Missile Defense Command headquarters, a big piece of the Missile Defense Agency.”

He says it brought in 5,000 direct jobs and another 5,000 support jobs.

We contacted the offices of the lawmakers who represent Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal. That would be Representative Mo Brooks (R-5th), Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). We asked if they would support the president’s call for another BRAC.

We have not received an answer from Senator Sessions.

A spokesperson for Senator Shelby sent us this statement, “Should a BRAC occur, Senator Shelby will continue to fight to support installations that are critical to our national security, including those in the state of Alabama.”

We pointed out that didn’t answer our question. We didn’t get an answer.

The office of Congressman Brooks passed along this statement from the congressman, “I will consider the merits of President Obama’s BRAC proposal if and when it is reduced to bill form and introduced in Congress.  Obama’s 113th Congress BRAC legislation proposed giving a Democrat White House and Democrat Senate 100% control over the BRAC committee appointments and process, thereby putting red state military facilities, like Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal, Ft. Rucker, Maxwell Air Force Base, at disproportionate political risk of closure or reduction.  As with most policy proposals, the devil is in the details.  At this point, President Obama has given Congress no BRAC details to examine and consider, so it is premature to state a firm position.”

It continues, “Any new BRAC has to make a lot more financial sense than the last BRAC in 2005.  A decade later, the 2005 BRAC is still in the red; implementation costs still exceed claimed savings.  The impact of faulty financial claims and benefits cannot be overstated.  The 2005 BRAC’s deficit has unquestionably contributed to cuts in net national defense spending, thereby reducing America’s national security capabilities.”

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