With the failure of the Obamacare repeal bill and a tightening off the legislative timeline, it looks as if there is not going to be room in this year’s congressional agenda for debate over BRAC. Expect discussions off the floor to continue in the press however.
Congressional representatives from both parties will spend some of their limited time to ensure their districts are prepared for what will inevitably occur. Budgets are still tight, and a continuing resolution providing for funding the rest of this fiscal year is certainly on the table. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has threatened to shut down the government over a CR however. Regardless, the government runs out of funding April 28; and there is a two-week recess in April.
That gives scant time to resolve the appropriations fight. Additionally, to complicate matters, the U.S. technically hit the debt ceiling mid-month March, another fiscal concern for Congress. Currently the Treasury Secretary is using “extraordinary measures” to ensure the U.S. does not default on our debt. The House Freedom Caucus could well prevent a vote increasing the debt ceiling if such a bill came to the floor, forcing the Trump administration to cut funding in order to fit in the spending increases desired.
Another upcoming event is the end of the federal hiring freeze scheduled for April 21. The intent was to allow the Office of Management and Budget’s team to come up with a way to decrease the size of government. What will follow is unknown, but expect a reduction in federal employees throughout government. How that will impact Middle Georgia remains to be seen. Although many positions on the base were exempted, many were not.
Back to BRAC, the process involved in selecting bases is more akin to a sledge hammer, when what is needed is a scalpel. While the Air Force stated they have 25 percent excess capacity, what the excess capacity is hasn’t been identified by any service. Additionally, with the increase in spending this administration is proposing, the excess may well be needed to add previously cut resources back to our bases. A better question Congress may well ask the services is what capacity is required to conduct their mission; specifically, what is required to conduct the “lethal fight.”
With Congress asking what capacity directly contribute to the lethal fight, and what capacity the services could shed to save money, we could avoid a BRAC altogether. One way to slim down the bases’ budgets may be to shed capacity that do not directly support the lethal fight and negotiate with local communities for such services that are shed. Some of that critical support can come in the form of school choice for military personnel, tax relief for active duty and reserve personnel on active duty. Taking these actions will only help further strengthen the military and community relationship and will send a message to Department of Defense senior leaders that Middle Georgia is all in when it comes to supporting their men and women in uniform.
Dan Rhoades is a resident of Kathleen.