Mr. Chairman, Members of the Commission.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the Department's recommendations on Base Realignment and Closure. And thank you for agreeing to serve our country and perform what is a formidable task.
Today, the Department is in need of change and adjustment. Our current arrangements, designed for the Cold War, must give way to the new demands of the war against extremism and other evolving challenges. We face an enemy that is dispersed throughout the world. It does not operate the same way as a traditional enemy--it has no territory to defend and no permanent bases to safeguard. Our enemy is constantly adapting and so must we.
Some have asked why we are proposing any base closings during a time of war. The answer is because these changes are essential to helping us win this war.
Consider the array of issues of concern to the Department of Defense--and indeed to the country:
* Relieving stress on the force;
* Improving the ability of the forces to cooperate jointly;
* Protecting forces stationed at vulnerable bases and locations across the country and the world; and
* Properly equipping the troops.
If one thinks about those priorities, it clearly makes sense to do all that one can to identify and remove whatever excess exists to be better able to address those pressing needs to help the warfighters. In fact, these changes are more necessary--not less--during a time of war. At the same time, by making these changes, the American taxpayer benefits.
This, in essence, is the logic--and the imperative--of BRAC.
A few comments about what has been undertaken over the past two and a half years:
* First, as required by law, the primary factor in each BRAC decision has been an assessment of an installation's underlying military value. Indeed, military judgments have played the key role from the outset, and properly so. In a time of war, whenever we can find ways to increase support for military needs--to help the warfighters--we can do no less.
* Second, the previous four BRAC rounds--1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995--over time have eliminated some 21% of excess U.S. military infrastructure, and re-allocated many billons of dollars to pressing military needs. This year's recommendations, if approved, should result in up to $5.5 billion in recurring annual savings--a net savings of up to $48.8 billion over 20 years. When combined with the proposed changes to U.S. global posture, the projected 20 year net savings increases to as much as $64.2 billion, or up to $6.7 billion per year;
* Third, for the first time, the BRAC deliberations took place with an emphasis on "jointness." The Department recognized that operating jointly reduces overhead costs, improves efficiency and facilitates cooperative training and research. Importantly, the proposed consolidations also free up personnel and resources to reduce stress on the force and enhance force protection.
Additionally, the Department also considered potential contingency and surge requirements and possible increases in active duty troop levels. These recommendations, if adopted by the Commission, the President and the Congress, would result in 33 major base closures and 29 major base realignments out of 318 major domestic military facilities. Put another way, BRAC would close a bit less than 10 percent of major U.S. facilities, and realign another 9 percent.
BRAC also will help further the President's goal of bringing Service members together under one umbrella. One way this would happen is through the consolidation of research, support and training functions of the different Services at what we call "Centers of Excellence." These centers improve the ability of the military branches to share information, adopt common standards and procedures and increase efficiency. These changes in turn boost the …