March 6, 2017
The drawdown blew a hole in the Air Force’s maintenance ranks. How it’s digging its way out.

March 5, 2017

Before the steep force management cuts of 2014 hit the Air Force’s ranks, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina — home of the 20th Fighter Wing and its roughly 79 F-16CM Fighting Falcons — worked about 40 to 50 hours a week.

It was tough work, and they were often on call during weekends, but it was doable.

These days, short-staffed Shaw maintainers often work 12-hour-plus days, 60 hours a week, and they come in on weekends at least twice a month. Many are fed up with the stress, the long hours, and the extra duties — such as physical fitness training and professional military education — taking up time that could otherwise be spent with their families.

And, increasingly, they’re seeing their fellow airmen hang up their wrenches once and for all.

“There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”

The Air Force has long known its maintainer shortage is a serious problem, affecting aircraft readiness and burning out personnel. The service has been trying to fix the shortfall for years — with some success — but the 2014 drawdown dug a deep hole, and work remains for the service to climb its way out.

All this as the service remains busy at home and overseas — supporting missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world — and struggles with an aging fleet that requires a lot more care and work to keep in the air.
Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, a tactical aircraft maintainer with the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, performs a safe for maintenance check on an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., on Feb. 13.
Photo Credit: Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado/Air Force

Bad situation made worse

In 2013, the Air Force was short 2,538 maintainers. The drawdown in 2014 — which saw the Air Force cut more than 19,800 airmen across the force — made an already-bad situation worse.

In the aircraft maintenance career fields, the Air Force cut at least 1,392 airmen through voluntary and involuntary drawdown programs rolled out in 2014, according to statistics the service provided to Air Force Times. Between 2013 and 2015, the maintainer shortfall jumped by nearly that much, or 1,217.

In addition, the Air Force loses roughly 6,000 maintainers a year to retirements and separations, and through 2014, it wasn’t bringing in enough new maintainers to fully replace them.

So in 2015 and 2016, the Air Force came up with a new plan, said Lt. Gen. John Cooper, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection. The service started bringing on more new airmen into maintenance fields, redirecting some accessions that were originally earmarked for other career fields.

That “was the result of the Air Force saying, ‘We’re just going to give you more at the expense of somebody else,’ ” Cooper said. “We had to stop the bleeding.”

Cooper predicted the Air Force will begin to see serious progress on fixing the maintainer shortage once and for all this year. About 1,000 of the 4,000-airman increase planned for this year will be new maintainers. Added to the normal 6,000 replacements for attrition, that means the Air Force will bring on about 7,000 maintainers total this year. That is likely to get the maintenance shortfall down to about 2,500 by the end of this year, the Air Force said.

The Air Force also plans to bring in as many as 8,000 new maintainers each year in 2018 and 2019, Cooper said.

The goal is to eliminate the shortfall entirely by the end of 2019, he said.

Problems in the shop

Lamb and two other Shaw maintainers told Air Force Times the drawdown was when problems started to emerge in their shop — especially in the ranks of maintainers with vital experience.

“We had 7-[skill] levels that had been in 10, 12 years that were getting cut, and 5-levels that had numerous things that had popped up on their record” that got them cut, Lamb said. “That’s when we started seeing the downfall. It happened at a slow pace, until we started noticing, we don’t have as much people as we used to.”

 

Lamb said most of those maintainers were kicked out because they failed fitness tests or had medical discharges. Others took advantage of voluntary separation programs such as early retirement, he said.

“Great people, great maintainers,” with decades of experience walked out the door at Shaw in late 2014 and early 2015, Lamb said. Between 2013 and 2016, the 20th Maintenance Group at Shaw lost 130 authorized positions, with 113 of those losses in fiscal 2015, which began in October 2014. The 20th would not say how many maintenance personnel it has due to operational security concerns, but said there are 3,365 military personnel overall at the wing.

For those who remained, the effect was devastating.

“Our tempo of flying aircraft never slowed down,” said Tech. Sgt. Jacob Jones, an F-16 crew chief with the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron. “So on top of that you get the stress levels that go up; you get not just the responsibilities, but the hours increase, the weekend duties increase.”

The 20th is most acutely feeling the shortage in its ranks of 7-skill level maintainers, who often have a decade or more of experience.

Before the drawdown, if the 20th had four planes down for maintenance at one time, it probably could have dedicated one 7-level aircraft fuel system craftsman — supervising a two- or three-airman crew — to each plane, said Staff Sgt. Clifford Coleman Jr., an F-16 aircraft fuel system repair craftsman at the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron.

But now, Coleman said, a 7-level fuel system craftsman would have to oversee the work on two, three or maybe even four planes to ensure everything was done right. Coleman, Jones and Lamb are all 7-levels.

“Most 7-levels, their minimum day is 12 hours,” Jones said. “They’ll usually [work] two to three weekends, sometimes four weekends, every month, depending on the aircraft and how much they break. Because when you only have four or five 7-levels total, when we used to have 10, 15, somebody’s got to be there. Without a 7-level, the airplane doesn’t fly.”

Lamb estimates that after he and other avionics airmen finish their primary jobs, they spend another three hours wrapping up additional duties each day.

“Those additional duties do add up,” Lamb said. “We end up having to manage our time where we put it [off] to another day, or we just have to find the time when we can. But all these additional duties start getting backed up on us.”

Ramping up the stress

Coleman said that seeing fellow airmen get kicked out only ramped up the pressure on those remaining and had them fearing for their own careers.

“You would hear what people were getting relieved of duty for, whether it was a medical board, or they didn’t have the credentials academically, or things that were a necessity in our career field that showed career progression,” Coleman said. “It makes you get on your game, go after the academics and pick up certain programs to make yourself more useful.”
Air Force Times
Weary maintainers struggle to keep fleet combat ready
Cooper said there wasn’t much the cash-strapped Air Force could do to avoid the maintainer cuts in 2014.

“When sequestration hit, we had an enormous bill that we had to pay,” Cooper said. “We had to solve it in one year.”

Cutting into readiness wasn’t an option, Cooper said, since the Air Force was still operating in Afghanistan and was about to start bombing the Islamic State. The Air Force made some acquisition cuts, but he said it still wasn’t enough to plug the budget gap.

So the Air Force was forced to slash personnel, he said. Aircraft maintenance is such a huge part of the Air Force’s manpower — accounting for about one-quarter of the overall enlisted force — that there was no way to avoid cutting them, he said, though the service tried to lessen the blow.

Apart from the drawdown, other circumstances helped worsen the shortfall. The Air Force planned to retire the A-10, for example, and reassign its maintainers as it brought on new F-35s, but Congress stymied the effort to mothball the A-10 — which meant the Air Force now had to maintain both fleets. Each F-35 requires about 20 maintainers apiece, and the Air Force was bringing on two per month, Cooper said, which meant the service was further digging a hole to the tune of 40 maintainers a month.

The Air Force’s overall maintainer shortage hit its nadir in fiscal 2015. That year, the Air Force had 63,179 maintainers, which amounted to a 6 percent shortfall, or 3,755 airmen, from the 66,934 it was authorized to have. That is close to the roughly 4,000 maintainer shortage Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein raised alarms about during his confirmation hearing last year.
Air Force Times
Goldfein: Air Force is short 4,000 maintainers
At the end of fiscal 2016, the situation had improved slightly. Maintenance manning climbed to 63,807, and the shortfall dropped to 3,281, or 5 percent undermanned.

Less experienced airmen

But a closer look at some of the most vital maintenance career fields shows that the shortfall persists — and is still alarming. Crew chiefs tasked with keeping legacy and fifth-generation fighters in the air have consistently flirted with 90 percent manning, the point at which personnel officials start getting worried.

Among fighter avionics airmen, the situation is even more dire. Manning for those airmen was at 92 percent in 2013, swiftly declined to 86 percent in 2015, before slightly rebounding to 87 percent last year.

The most experienced fighter avionics airmen, those with skill levels of 5 or 7, are in the worst shape, hitting 88 percent and 84 percent manning last year.

The 7-level fighter crew chiefs were consistently well into the 80-percent range from 2013 to 2015, until hitting 91 percent last year, just out of the undermanned range. And 5-level fighter crew chiefs dropped from 93 percent manned to 90 percent manned.
Staff Sgt. Clifford Coleman, a fuel system craftsman with the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron, overhauls an F-16CM Fighting Falcon fuel system at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., on Feb. 9.
Photo Credit: Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado/Air Force

It’s not just fighter squadrons feeling the pain.

“We’re short everywhere,” Cooper said. “We’re most acute in the fighter maintenance area. Bombers are short as well. There’s not a lot of 40-hour work weeks out there for fighters and bombers.”

As the Air Force brings on more new airmen, it also must boost its ability to train and shape them into the next generation of maintainers at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. To grow that training pipeline from 6,500 to 7,000 this year, and then to 8,000 annually, Cooper said the schoolhouse is looking at ways to train more efficiently, add a second shift of classes, and add instructors.

The next challenge will be to get those newly graduated airmen from the 3-skill level to the more experienced — and in-demand — 5- and 7-levels, Cooper said. But there’s no way to speed up that process, he said. It takes roughly 15 to 18 months, depending on the complexity of the air frame, to get a maintainer to the 5-level, and then another four to six years to get them to a 7-skill level.

“If it’s a young crew chief, we can explain how to change a tire or a landing gear many times, but until they actually do it, they’re not going to be experienced at it,” Cooper said. “We’re not talking about average work here. We’re talking about airmen who have to do it right every single time.”

‘The clock is ticking’

The Air Force also is boosting its retention incentives and other programs to keep its seasoned maintainers. Cooper said that program is working, coaxing about 1,000 more airmen to stay on each year. He estimates the Air Force now has about 15 percent fewer experienced airmen — staff and tech sergeants, mostly at the 7-level — than it would like.

Some guardsmen and reservists, as well as contractors, are being called to bolster the ranks on the active-duty side.
Air Force Times
Seeking maintainers, Air Force adds dozens of jobs to enlistment bonus list
“We have not enough experienced maintainers, we are flooding the system with young maintainers, and then we have these airplanes that continue to get older and older, and we need to continue to keep these airplanes for longer and longer,” Cooper said. “We’re going to have new and old [airplanes], and we’re going to have experienced and inexperienced airmen maintaining those new and old airplanes for the long haul.”

The Shaw airmen said they are seeing more young maintainers come on board from technical school, but they agreed that there’s no shortcut to rebuilding the ranks of 7-level maintainers.

“It takes 10 years to have 10 years of experience,” Jones said. “That’s going to be about where your 7-level group is.”

But the clock is ticking for the Air Force to show progress. Those three Shaw maintainers say they aren’t going anywhere. But they said they know a lot of people who have left or are seriously thinking of leaving to become contractors, where they can work shorter hours for twice their current salaries.

“They pride themselves on being that go-to person for their career field,” Coleman said. “They signed up with the intent of fixing airplanes. And the added stress of being mentors, and all the added education, they look at that as [something that should be] a bonus, not something that is now mandatory. And if you don’t do it, you’re not qualified.

“That’s the point where so many individuals in my career field said, this is not what I signed up for.

 

By: Stephen Losey,  Air Force Times

November 10, 2016
Pentagon Could Look to Close Bases Without BRAC Authorization

WASHINGTON – For several years, the Pentagon has been blocked by Congress in its request to begin another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Now, facing an expected wave of modernization bills in the next decade, a top DoD official has suggested the building needs to look for alternative ways to shut down excess infrastructure.

Jamie Morin, the head of the Pentagon’s office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE), told Defense News that he believes the department needs to look at all the options on the table and try to work with Congress to dump excess infrastructure, even if it means going outside the BRAC procedure.

“It’s not clear to me that BRAC is the only model to follow. Maybe we need to think about redefining what a process might be for getting to recognition that some installations need to close,” Morin said in an Oct. 22 interview. “I am not writing a legislative proposal at this point, but I think if Congress can’t see its way through to BRAC, what was constituted in the Nineties and reprising one of the 1990’s rounds, then we need to find another alternative that does work for them.”

There were BRAC rounds in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995, but the one that still echoes today is the 2005 round. While the Pentagon says it is now enjoying the benefits of that effort, the 2005 effort was seen as excessively costly and left members of Congress, already sensitive to political ramifications of bases leaving various states, with a built-in aversion to further efforts.
Defense News
30 Years: Base Realignment and Closure — A Bitter Pill
Bob Hale, who served as Pentagon comptroller from 2009 to 2014, says that the five rounds of BRAC held since 1990 have resulted in savings of $12 billion dollars every year.

“Based on my experience, I believe that BRAC represents the single largest program efficiency that DoD has been able to implement,” Hale said in an October email. “Congress should keep this history in mind as it considers whether to authorize another BRAC round.”

Those comments have been echoed by top Pentagon officials, including Morin, who contend that BRAC is necessary, especially with a much-ballyhooed “bow-wave” of modernization pogroms coming in the early 2020s. As an example, the CAPE head noted that when he was an official with the Air Force, the service estimated it took 800-900 airmen just to keep a base open, even before you put any equipment there.

But the political realities of BRAC – where some members of Congress will lose the economic hub of a military base in their district – mean that few on the Hill are in any rush to move forward with a new proposal.

Another round of BRAC is legally prohibited and, failing a surprise revision of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House and Senate, it will be blocked next year as well. The House- and Senate-passed spending bills would do likewise.

“It does strike me that the department has been asking for BRAC authority now for four years, five years,” Morin said. “So at some point, we either have to figure out a new way to convince people that the request as it stands is the right answer for the nation, or figure out another way to come at the problem.”
Defense News
DoD Official: BRAC Round Will Save Money
BRAC Alternatives

So how could a non-BRAC closure work? The Pentagon has some base closure capabilities that the Secretary can trigger, although Morin noted Congress can pass laws prohibiting those actions if it wishes – essentially, the situation that led to the creation of the BRAC process in the first place.

“A with any distribution issue in democracy, you have winners and losers. Often, the losers feel the things more intensely than the winners. One of the virtues of the BRAC process is people don’t know who is a winner and a loser in advance. There is uncertainty,” Morin noted. “So that offers opportunity for people to plan to put their best foot forward and make a strong case for the advantages of their installation.”

One former Pentagon official warned that while the DoD could close buildings using the traditional environmental impact statement process, it is an “extremely painful” way of doing business because the department then has to turn to Congress to fund replacement facilities.

“That’s why the BRAC worked so well—you basically got the money for closure and the money for the new bases at the same time,” the official said. “Going around a BRAC is much harder than a BRAC, because you don’t have all the statutory authorities for the streamlined process or the funding.”

Instead, the official suggested the Pentagon will just start creating hollow bases – cutting O&M funds and slashing missions – to the point where communities will start to vocalize a desire for a BRAC rather than deal with half-open bases.

Another potential alternative has emerged from the Hill, although interest in the plan is small at this point.

Seven House Democrats introduced legislation in June, known as the Military Infrastructure Consolidation Efficiency Act, that would have allowed the military to close excess bases outside of a BRAC. The bill, from Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., and HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., would require DoD to project force structure over the next 20 years and the facilities needed to support it; the Comptroller General would provide a similar report.

The language would authorize a process for DoD to develop recommendations for consolidating, closing, and realigning military infrastructure. Those recommendations would be reviewed by an independent commission whose members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. If the president agrees with the independent commission’s final recommendations, Congress would then have the final word with an up-or-down vote.

The bill was co-sponsored by Reps. Susan Davis, D-Calif.; Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.; Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam; Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas. Bordallo is the ranking member of the HASC Readiness Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over installation management.

Smith, the top Democratic voice on defense issues in the House, has criticized lawmakers for skirting hard, fiscally responsible decisions to limit Pentagon spending, which would include a round of the politically unpopular BRAC process.

“The Defense Department needs flexibility to get rid of unneeded infrastructure in an efficient and transparent manner,” Smith said in a statement to Defense News. “It’s difficult for Congress to rise above parochial concerns, but I’m hopeful they’ll understand the need to do so in light of the immense budget pressures on our military. The Department should continue to work with Congress to explain the need for reducing excess infrastructure and authorize a process that addresses concerns from the previous BRAC round.”

Shared from:  Defense News

By: Aaron Mehta and Joe Gould, November 7, 2016

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/pentagon-could-look-to-close-bases-without-brac-authorization

October 27, 2016
Expanding Goals of BRAC Could Improve Its Political Prospects, O’Hanlon Says

BRAC has always been a hard sell, a point borne out by the Obama administration’s failure to persuade lawmakers to authorize one or more base closure rounds over the past five years.
Maybe if the Pentagon were to broaden the aims of the BRAC process from simply winnowing unneeded infrastructure to an effort that simultaneously reinvests in the neglected facilities at enduring installations. Reconceptualizing BRAC possibly could improve its prospects in Congress, Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, told On Base.
A more comprehensive BRAC effort could both rightsize the military’s portfolio of installations as well as reverse the deterioration of facilities that have been underfunded in recent years as DOD has been forced to operate under a budget cap, he said. O’Hanlon views BRAC as an initiative that has been effective in the past — with some exceptions, particularly in the 2005 round — and could contribute in a moderate way to future budget savings for the Pentagon.
Expanding BRAC to include repairing and refurbishing enduring installations isn’t specifically required from a management standpoint, but the concept is worth considering if it helps convince Congress of the department’s need to shed a portion of its excess infrastructure, he added.
O’Hanlon recommends at least one, and possibly two, new base closure rounds in his recent look at how the U.S. military can maintain its global edge in national security without breaking the bank — “The $650 Billion Bargain: The Case for Modest Growth in America’s Defense Budget.”
O’Hanlon says the nation’s current spending for national security of just over $600 billion is roughly the right amount, but he also calls for moderate growth in the budget so that it reaches $650 billion in FY 2020. The administration’s current projection is for defense spending to decline to $575 billion by 2020.
Much of the discrepancy can be explained by O’Hanlon’s assumption that the department’s overseas contingency operations costs will remain at their current level.
He also calls for a halt in the administration’s plan to shrink the Army’s active-duty end strength to 450,000. The size of the regular Army currently is about 470,000 soldiers, which O’Hanlon says should be the smallest number it should reach. With the reserve components, the service should have a total of 1 million troops.
The Army’s current size is needed to handle future contingencies, O’Hanlon explained. “There is no perfect, right number,” he said, but as the service’s end strength drops, the risk increases that it becomes too small to deal with simultaneous conflicts.
“I think we’re on the cusp of that uncomfortable place,” O’Hanlon said.
While O’Hanlon calls for only modest growth in defense spending, a $650 billion defense budget would far exceed the 2011 Budget Control Act cap for FY 2020. He says there is no magic trick for achieving that target — Congress will need to come to a bipartisan agreement to surpass the caps, as it has done several times since the law was enacted.
A deal to raise the defense caps almost certainly will require political compromise, with the GOP likely retaining control of the House and the Senate too close to call but leaving the minority party in a position to filibuster legislation it opposes. Democrats will insist on raising non-defense spending caps by a roughly equal amount, a compromise O’Hanlon would support as boosting spending on education, scientific research and infrastructure benefits national security.
Unless lawmakers vote to completely revoke the Budget Control Act, they probably would need to pass two more two-year “Band-Aids” to relax the spending caps through FY 2021, the date when the statute runs out. The defense and non-defense spending limits should be raised by about $30 billion each, or by about 5 percent, he said.
“The $650 Billion Bargain: The Case for Modest Growth in America’s Defense Budget” is available from the Brookings Press.

 

Shared From: ADC , 20 Oct 2016

Author: Dan Cohen

http://defensecommunities.org/blog/congress-dod/expanding-goals-of-brac-could-improve-its-political-prospects-ohanlon-says/

“Congressman Thornberry’s House Armed Services Committee still working with Senate in conference Committee to agree to a 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.”

Topline Spending Still Remains a Hurdle in Reaching a Deal on Authorization Bill

While leaders of the Armed Services committees have pointed to a dispute of whether the greater sage grouse should be barred from being placed on the endangered species list as the primary holdup in House-Senate negotiations over a conference agreement for the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill, discussions over the measure’s topline spending level and what programs will suffer cuts have yet to be settled.

Lawmakers reportedly have reached a compromise over the House version’s reliance on $18 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO) account funds to augment the department’s base budget. The maneuver would allow Congress to evade the defense spending cap and fund weapons and equipment, and higher end strength levels not requested by the Obama administration. The move, which is intended to restore shortfalls in military readiness, would force the next administration to request supplemental funding for overseas operations before the end of April.
While negotiators apparently agreed to use only $9 billion from the OCO account for base budget items, they still need to hammer out a deal on how those funds would be allocated and what programs won’t benefit from war funds, reports Politico.
Lawmakers, for example, need to decide whether to retain funding to increase the active-duty end strength for the Army and Marine Corps beyond DOD’s request, a high priority for many lawmakers. Cancelling the extra troops would save over $1 billion.
The committees also could save $330 million by agreeing to a 1.6 percent pay raise for service members, rather than a 2.1 percent increase.
Because President Obama has threatened to veto the authorization bill if it allows defense spending to skirt the budget caps without an equal increase for domestic programs, most experts believe the Armed Services committees won’t complete their negotiations until Congress and the White House reach a deal on FY 2017 appropriations. Lawmakers are optimistic that agreement will happen during the lame-duck session.
An amendment added to the House version of the authorization bill that would allow federal contractors to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity also could hold up a conference agreement on the annual defense policy bill, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member on House Armed Services, said last month.
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.), would roll back an executive order signed by Obama making discrimination against LGBT individuals in federal contracting illegal, reported CQ Roll Call.
In its Statement of Administration policy on the House bill, the White House said it “strongly objects” to the Russell language because it would “undermine important protections put in place by the president to ensure that federal contractors and subcontractors do not engage in discriminatory employment practice.

 

Shared from: ADC , 2 Oct 2016

Author: Dan Cohen

http://defensecommunities.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/The_Pentagon_January_2008-1024×585.jpg

Vets, Retirees Will See A 0.3% COLA Hike In 2017

Military retirees and individuals receiving veterans benefits will see only a 0.3 percent cost-of-living increase in their federal benefits next year, a nominal increase matching 2016’s hike. On Tuesday, officials from the Social Security Administration announced the small raise, the third consecutive year the benefits adjustment will be under 0.5 percent. Since 2009, the cost-of-living hike has been more than 2 percent only once, when it reached 3.6 percent in 2011. Veterans benefits are not automatically tied to the Social Security increase, but in July lawmakers passed legislation linking the two benefits for 2017. In the last few decades, veterans have seen their annual adjustment differ from the Social Security COLA only one time, and then only due to minor rounding differences. The Social Security COLA is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ periodic Consumer Price Index, a statistical estimate of the anticipated price of a variety household goods and services. This year, officials are estimating only small increases in those costs, identical to the rise seen in expenses heading into 2016. The Social Security, military retiree and veterans benefits changes affect more than 70 million Americans, about 22 percent of the country’s population. According to the Associated Press, the 0.3 percent adjustment will mean less than $4 more a month for a Social Security recipient who sees the average payout of $1,238. The adjustment will go into effect for beneficiaries starting Dec. 30. Veterans using Medicare for health coverage may not see anything at all once those medical costs come into play. The Associated Press reports that Medicare Part B premiums, which are usually deducted from Social Security payments, are expected to increase next year, effectively wiping out the COLA hike.

 

Shared from Military Times, Oct 18 2016

By: Leo Shane III

April 21, 2016
Readiness Subcommittee Retains Ban on BRAC

The House Armed Services’ Readiness Subcommittee dismisses the Obama administration’s latest request to hold a BRAC round in 2019, according to its portion of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill.

The language in the draft bill released Tuesday stating that, “Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize an additional Base Realignment and Closure round,” affirms the committee’s intent to reject DOD’s request to authorize another base closure round, the panel states.

The subcommittee will mark up its portion of the annual policy bill Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

In a change from past years, the legislation includes language clarifying that the BRAC prohibition is not intended to bar the department from preparing an analysis of its infrastructure needs if required by statute or requested by a congressional committee, including the infrastructure assessment required under last year’s authorization bill.

Last week, DOD released an analysis concluding that 22 percent of the department’s capacity is excess compared to a 1989 baseline, with significant variation among the services — the Army has 33 percent excess, the Air Force 32 percent and the Navy 7 percent.

In a bid to make it easier for the services to re-purpose older facilities, the subcommittee mark includes language reclassifying facility conversion as a repair. The change would allow all work within a facility’s existing dimensions to be considered repair, according to the draft bill.

The subcommittee’s mark is available on the Armed Services Committee website.

 

Shared From:  Defense Communities/Author Dan Cohen

http://defensecommunities.org/blog/congress-dod/readiness-subcommittee-retains-ban-on-brac/?utm_source=dc360

April 18, 2016
DOD Analysis Reveals Significant Excess Capacity in Army Air Force Facilities

About one-third of Army and Air Force infrastructure is excess to those services’ needs, according to a broad capacity analysis released by the Defense Department.

Overall, 22 percent of the department’s capacity is excess; only 7 percent of the Navy’s infrastructure is unneeded.

The parametric analysis compares various facility measures to changes in force structure, using 1989 as a baseline. The estimates are based on projected force levels in fiscal 2019. Because DOD had a significant amount of excess in 1989, the results of the analysis are conservative, according to the report. The analysis is not designed to determine whether any particular base has excess capacity, it emphasized.

The results also can’t be used to predict the scope of closures in a future BRAC round, it said.

“While 22 percent excess is substantial, the results of this analysis cannot be used to project the potential size of BRAC closures broadly, nor can the excess in any category of installation be used to project the likelihood of an installation closing,” according to the report.

Past base closure rounds have reduced plant replacement value by an average of 5 percent.

The most striking figures in the report are the estimates by installation category, with the results ranging from no increase — beyond the 1989 baseline — to levels of excess capacity above 50 percent. Estimates of excess capacity by installation category for the Army include:

  • administration — 29 percent
  • depots — no increase
  • arsenals/industrial manufacturing — 36
  • major training active — 2
  • major training reserve — 53
  • maneuver — 42
  • schools — 44
  • test and evaluation/labs — 46
  • Army total — 33

Estimates of excess capacity by installation category for the Air Force include:

  • depots — 1 percent
  • education and training (parking apron space) — 7
  • education and training (classroom space) — 53
  • large aircraft — 36
  • small aircraft — 43
  • product centers, labs and test & evaluation — 14
  • Air Force Reserve — 24
  • Air National Guard — 24
  • Air Force total — 32

Estimates of excess capacity by installation category for the Navy include:

  • naval bases — 22 percent
  • Marine Corps bases — 27
  • air stations — no increase
  • aviation maintenance — 13
  • depot maintenance, Marine Corps — 9
  • shipyards — no increase
  • research, development, test & evaluation — no increase
  • training air stations — no increase
  • Navy total — 7

The Defense Logistics Agency’s distribution depots have an estimated 14 percent excess infrastructure. The analysis found no increase in excess space since 1989 in the agency’s supply centers.

March 21, 2016
Air Force, Local Leaders Seek Compromise over Proposed Textile Plant outside March ARB

Air Force, Local Leaders Seek Compromise over Proposed Textile Plant outside March ARB

21 March 2016

Officials from March Air Reserve Base in Southern California and local authorities are hoping to avoid a potential conflict over a proposed textile plant that would be located in the airfield’s Accident Potential Zone 1.

The project still is in the preliminary stages, but the commander of the air reserve base has said the $31 million, 185,000-square foot manufacturing plant could jeopardize the installation’s mission, reports the Press-Enterprise.

At a meeting of the March Joint Powers Authority last week, Brig. Gen. Russell Muncy said locating a plant in the base’s accident potential zones would raise concerns about the safety of its flight operations.

“The desire is to minimize density along these corridors,” Muncy said. “Ideally, if an airplane were to come out of the sky, you want it to hit nothing.”

Ultimately, the plant could make the base vulnerable to realignment or closure, the commander said. “Encroachment is the quickest way to render any military installation ineffective,” he said.

Danielle Wheeler, executive director of the joint powers authority, indicated the conflict could be resolved.

“There’s been lots of discussions about [this] project today,” Wheeler said, referring to her office and officials from March and the neighboring city of Perris. “We’re making great headway.”

Muncy similarly was optimistic a mutually beneficial solution to the issue could be found.

“We’re looking at ways, ‘How can we get to a win-win for the community and still protect the base’s operational capability?’” he said. “I think we’ll get there on this. When you’ve got good communication you can work through anything.”

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Dan Cohen

Area Defense Communities

http://defensecommunities.org/blog/active-base-issues/air-force-local-leaders-seek-comprise-over-proposed-textile-plant-outside-march-arb/?utm_source=dc360
March 18, 2016
Congress Fails to Appreciate How BRAC Hurts Communitites

Congress Fails to Appreciate How the BRAC Ban Is Hurting Communities, Analyst Says

Congress Fails to Appreciate How the BRAC Ban Is Hurting Communities, Analyst Says

Over the past four years, lawmakers have come up with multiple reasons to reject the Pentagon’s request to hold one or more rounds of base closures, but none of them have held up under scrutiny, especially as DOD faces severe spending constraints, says Mackenzie Eaglen, a resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute.

“Congress has dug in for too long on opposing the long-overdue next base closure round. The irony is that this is hurting communities and the military — not helping them, contrary to popular opinion,” Eaglen writes in a commentary published in Forbes.

The argument that BRAC does not save money is refuted by the $12 billion the first five rounds are saving annually, she writes. Even the 2005 round, with its emphasis on realigning missions rather than closing facilities outright, is saving $4 billion each year.

Lawmakers’ insistence that the department conduct an “overseas BRAC” before pruning its domestic infrastructure ignored the progress all three services have made in shrinking their footprint in Europe over the past 10-plus years as the U.S. presence overseas has been significantly curtailed.

The latest rationale for rejecting the administration’s request is that the ongoing drawdown of the armed forces may need to be reversed and, as a result, the department will need more space to accommodate its personnel.

“But here again, the numbers just don’t add up,” Eaglen writes. Even if a hawkish administration captures the White House in November, the size of the armed forces is unlikely to grow by more than 4 percent.

“[That] does not make a dent in the argument for why over 20 percent excess infrastructure cannot still be reduced to more manageable levels,” Eaglen states.

While Congress believes it is protecting defense communities by resisting a new BRAC round, “the hundreds of defense communities across America with a military presence are strongly on the record in favor of outright base closures over the slow bleed that is currently hollowing out many posts and bases from within,” she writes.

“Inaction and uncertainty is actually worse than the potential for bad news in the overwhelming majority of communities affected,” according to Eaglen’s commentary.

She concludes that it’s time for lawmakers to “finally start to listen to what is best for the U.S. military, the taxpayer, and the constituents back home when it comes to base closures.”

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Shared from:  Dan Cohen   Defense Communities Blog

18 March 2016

February 10, 2016
“Administration Asks for BRAC Authority in 2017 Budget”

Pentagon Renews BRAC Request but Pushes it Back to 2019

In the Obama administration’s last year, the Pentagon has raised the urgency of a new round of base closures, threatening to take unilateral action if lawmakers once again reject its request.

“The need to reduce unneeded facilities is so critical that, in the absence of authorization of a new round of BRAC, the department will explore any and all authorities that Congress has provided to eliminate wasteful infrastructure,” according to an overview of DOD’s fiscal 2017 budget request.

The department’s budget, released Tuesday, calls for a new BRAC round in 2019; the last several budgets had requested a new round in 2017.

“The year proposed is now 2019 … just because it’s physically impossible, given the restrictions on our activities to have one in 2017 based on where we are now,” DOD Comptroller Mike McCord told reporters.

The proposal includes $4.0 million in FY 2017 for planning and oversight of a new BRAC. Defense officials already are figuring out how much of the department’s infrastructure is excess, as directed under the FY 2016 defense authorization bill.

The budget overview underscores the need for the department to redirect its scarce funds from facility maintenance to readiness, while pointing out that “underutilized military facilities create a drag on the economies of their host communities.”

The overview indicates DOD is not contemplating any changes in the existing BRAC process, despite lawmakers’ concerns about the cost of carrying out the 2005 round.

“[DOD] requests Congress to authorize a new BRAC round in 2019, using the established statutory process that has proven, repeatedly, to be the only effective and fair way to eliminate excess infrastructure and reconfigure what must remain.”