Third of U.S. Army, Air Force facilities seen as surplus by 2019 - Pentagon

WASHINGTON, April 15 (Reuters) - A new Pentagon analysis of U.S. military bases and facilities estimates that one third of Army and Air Force infrastructure will be unneeded surplus by 2019, wasting scarce resources at a time of tight budgets, a military spokesman said on Friday.

The analysis found the U.S. Defense Department overall had an excess infrastructure capacity of 22 percent, Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told a briefing. The surplus capacity was based on force levels the department expects to have by the 2019 fiscal year.

“We must close military bases to avoid spending money on bases we don’t need,” Davis told the briefing.

The figures from the analysis were included in a letter to Congress by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work in advance of a larger report supporting the Pentagon’s repeated requests for permission to close some of its operations under a process known as BRAC, or Base Realignment and Closure.

Work’s letter said the new analysis found that the Army had 33 percent excess capacity, the Air Force had 32 percent surplus facilities, the Navy had 7.0 percent too much and the Defense Logistics Agency had 12 percent.

The Pentagon has been seeking to eliminate its surplus bases and facilities for several years now to help it respond to orders to reduce projected spending by nearly a trillion dollars over a decade.

Lawmakers have repeatedly rejected the request because closing bases is politically unpopular and can have damaging economic consequences for communities that have built up around military bases.

Lawmakers are also skeptical of the cost-savings advantages of closing bases, in part because the last BRAC round cost far more than expected due to more realignment of basing than actual closure of surplus space.

Work, in his April 12 letter to lawmakers, said the current fiscal constraints faced by the Pentagon meant the department was having to cut spending at all installations, regardless of their military value.

“A better alternative is to close or realign installations with the lowest military value,” he said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

He said the department had submitted a proposal on base realignment that promised the focus of a new BRAC round would be on cutting excess capacity and reducing costs, with net savings obtained within five years. (Reporting by David Alexander)