Legislature(1999 - 2000)
03/09/1999 04:30 PM MLV
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 21 - MILITARY BASE REALIGNMENT/CLOSURE ACTIONS CHAIR MURKOWSKI announced the first order of business would be House Joint Resolution No. 21, relating to new evaluation and selection criteria for military base realignment and closure actions. Number 037 REPRESENTATIVE ELDON MULDER, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, explained that HJR 21 focuses on recommendations to Congress about future rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). It is a by-product of efforts with the task force of military bases in Alaska last year, and there is a companion resolution in the Senate [sponsored by Senator Tim Kelly, who along with Representative Mulder co-chairs the legislature's Joint Committee on Military Bases]. Representative Mulder read from the sponsor statement, with comments, as follows: This resolution asks the leaders of the federal government to reform the selection and evaluation criteria used in any future military base closure actions. Previous BRAC commissions allowed each of the military services to develop categories for its own bases and then evaluate and rank their bases, applying criteria established by the Department of Defense and Congress. Under these single-service evaluations, the concerns of individual services often overshadowed total force considerations. This process also seriously shortchanged Alaska's bases. Strategic location and established Army-Air Force compatibility, our bases' strongest points, were not fully recognized, while their high cost in relation to other bases, which is, by the way, our weakest point, was overemphasized. Consequently, many of Alaska's bases did not score very well under the old categorization or ranking. House Joint Resolution 21 calls for the President, the Secretary of Defense and Congress to establish Joint Cross-Service Groups this year to study the issues which shape our Armed Forces in the twenty-first century: power projection and deployment, joint training, joint operations and total force considerations. These Joint Cross-Service Groups will then develop a new evaluation and selection criteria and procedures for future BRAC commissions to ensure that total force and power projection factors receive increased consideration in future base closure decisions. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER told members that he and Representative Phillips had the privilege of visiting with the Secretary of Defense in Alaska a couple of weeks before; they had discussed this very point, which the Secretary of Defense had believed to be pertinent. Representative Mulder pointed out that the Secretary of Defense is from Maine, a state with considerations similar to Alaska's. For example, Maine has high costs, while strategic location and coordination of effort are important to them. Representative Mulder said Chris Nelson could answer questions about the BRAC process. Number 111 CHAIR MURKOWSKI asked whether Representative Mulder is looking for the new Joint Cross-Services Group to come up with brand-new criteria, including those stated in HJR 21, or whether it is an add-on to criteria used in previous realignments. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER said the categorizations need to be re-prioritized but also somewhat refocused. The highest criteria in the past has been cost, the state's weakest consideration. To his knowledge, a total force concept hasn't been fully utilized as a criteria. He deferred to Mr. Nelson for a more thorough answer. Number 134 CHRIS NELSON, Staff to Senator Tim Kelly; and Staff Director, Joint Committee on Military Bases in Alaska, Alaska State Legislature, explained that the idea of the Joint Cross-Service Groups was recommended by the 1993 BRAC Commission. Within the overall framework of the BRAC structure, from the "BRAC rounds" in 1991, 1993 and 1995, there have been adjustments based on their experiences. The 1993 BRAC Commission said that in the next round, [the Department of Defense] should look at some areas, primarily in the support arena, where the services could consolidate and save money; examples include undergraduate flight training, depots and laboratories. The Joint Cross-Service Groups met on each of these categories and came up with recommendations, some of which were adopted by the 1995 BRAC Commission. MR. NELSON pointed out that when Fort Richardson is compared only to other Army maneuver bases, it cannot now get credit for the joint mobility complex, the most modern, well-thought-out power projection facility in the world, to send soldiers to combat areas overseas; this is because it sits on the Elmendorf Air Force Base half of the reservation. The Army has no way in its evaluation system to weight that as an asset for Fort Richardson, yet no other base in the Army comes close to having a facility of deployment and power projection facility that modern. Mr. Nelson stated, "That's why we're talking about total force considerations and trying to build some criteria, so that those things will get noticed." MR. NELSON said right now there are only two areas where joint considerations enter into the BRAC process. After the services come up with their lists and evaluations of bases, then the regional Commander in Chief (CINC) for Alaska, which would be the Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), looks at it and offers input; then the Secretary of Defense himself looks at it. Those are the two high-echelon reviews of total force considerations. MR. NELSON concluded: "What we're asking for is that you begin the process, looking at total force consideration. Total force should be the building block that we're looking at all future BRAC actions on. We're ten years past the end of the Cold War. We have changed, in this period of time, from a forward-deployed force based primarily overseas to a power projection force based within our own borders. And when we talk about the force structure-base structure interaction, you say, 'Well, we've reduced the force structure, so we need to reduce the base structure.' That's true as far as it goes. But we have to look at the base structure, because we haven't changed our base structure to reflect the fact that we're now a power projection force. ... Previous BRAC rounds in 1991, '93, '95 did not do that. ... That's where we're trying to go on this." Number 193 CHAIR MURKOWSKI asked whether the idea in HJR 21 is unique to Alaska. MR. NELSON indicated Alaska would be the first, but he was sure there would be support from elsewhere. He noted that some states would not evaluate as well if they look at total force; those states prefer that the system remain as it is, as high operating costs in Alaska would put Alaska bases lower on the ladder. Alaska has been shortchanged in the analyses used in the prior BRAC rounds. Mr. Nelson concluded, "We're saying that if there is a BRAC 2001, it has to look at the base structure of the total force, not the base structure of the individual service." Number 216 PHILLIP OATES, Brigadier General, Adjutant General/Commissioner Designee, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, came forward to testify. He told members: I would like to applaud the resolution. In fact, it's so good, I wish I'd written it myself; it's truly at the graduate level. ... It argues exactly what our country needs, not just a parochial argument for Alaska. Our country needs to think in terms of joint capabilities that include both the active and the reserve components, and the guard. And by supporting this resolution, we are providing a very, very good model to the Secretary of Defense when the BRAC process comes. In our meeting with the Secretary of Defense, when he came to Alaska, he was very convincing in his argument that BRAC will come sometime in the future. He talked about the impact on communities, and we sat and listened to him - ... Representative Mulder, Representative Phillips - and he talked about the need for adjusting the impact on rural communities. However, we also talked about the need to ... do things that were most effective for our Armed Services. And this does what is most effective for our Armed Services, and oh, by the way, recognizes the strengths that Alaska has to offer. So, I applaud this resolution. Number 240 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER made a motion to move HJR 21 out of committee with individual recommendations and the attached zero fiscal note. There being no objection, HJR 21 moved from the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs.