Legislators today started looking at what might be in the state’s future when Congress decides it’s time to reorganize the nation’s military. The Joint Armed Services Committee also heard some ideas to avoid concerns over any possible negative results from the next federal Base Realignment and Closure – or BRAC – commission.
Steve Hyjek, the state’s Washington D-C-based consultant on BRAC matters, assured the lawmakers that he doesn’t see anything arising in the immediate future – although the Secretary of Defense has requested a formal commission to help cut his budget.
There is a reasonably strong potential that Congress will take up and take action for a BRAC round in calendar year 2013. The Secretary will push hard for a 2015 BRAC. There are those political pundits who believe it will be 2017, and we’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out.
Hyjek says his recommendations due out in a formal report next month will be for Alaska to promote its centralized location for deployment of troops and equipment to any part of the world. He says the strategic value of keeping the military here needs to get beyond what he calls the “green eyeshades” of the accountants who will recommend the first cuts to military installations. But he says one certain area the legislature needs to address is the cost of energy at the state’s bases.
I don’t know what the cost would be to the state to offer discounted power. If it’s not going to provide a significant savings – and when I say significant, you know, eight to ten percent or more — I’m not going to suggest we just bite around the edges and expend the taxpayers’ dollars. But I would certainly say discounted power as a short-term bridge will likely be a recommendation of something I think the state should look at in the near term as an action.
He says lawmakers should not confuse the idea of discounted power with the possibility of changing fuel sources – such as swapping coal generation for natural gas generators. The cost of changing fuels brings up new costs and issues that he is not prepared to analyze.
The final Base Closing and reorganization decisions are based on established statutory criteria such as whether a facility supports the fighting operations of the military, and the actual cost of operating and staffing the facility. He says the economic impact on the local community is at the bottom of the Defense Department’s points for consideration.