Capitol Hill’s continued blockage of base closures is a long-term problem for the Pentagon, and it’s hindering the department’s ability to invest in the future, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. Carter spoke Thursday during a visit to the West Coast, the same day the individual service’s military construction officials attempted to make the case for another round of Base Realignment and Closure authority to a congressional panel more than skeptical of the idea. “Closing bases is an example where Congress has stopped us for obvious reasons,” Carter said during a speech in Seattle. “It’s a problem, it has stopped us from making force structure changes.” Pete Potochney, the acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations, and the environment, told the House Appropriations subcommittee on military construction on Thursday that a round of BRAC could save about $2 billion per year. Miranda Ballentine, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, energy, and the environment, said the Air Force has about 30 percent excess capacity in bases, which is unsustainable for the service. (See also: The Long Road for BRAC from the February issue of Air Force Magazine.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.