When lean times hit families and
businesses of ordinary Americans, they have to cut back on luxuries,
waste, duplication and impulse spending. Rational decision-making
must take place! This is now true for government, as much as, for
families and businesses.
During times of financial stress and federal
budget failure, I would normally NOT suggest adding another
federal commission. However, to deal with the spending menace, I
propose we bring back the Base Realignment and Closure Commission
(BRAC). However, this time, let's apply it to the entire
federal government and not just the Department of Defense (DOD), as
was done in the five times it was previously implemented.
BRAC was first instituted in 1988 to address the
Cold War military drawdown as no Congressman, Senator or President
had the skill, integrity, or courage to tackle the needed spending
cuts outright. Though Conservative War Hawks professed fiscal
restraint, like kids at Christmas, they wanted taxpayers to buy them
every new "military toy" the Defense Department offered. At
the same time, fearing they would be voted out of office, Peacenik
Liberals found themselves unable to vote against military spending in
their states, even as they complained that defense spending had to be
Because bases brought government jobs to
constituents and campaign cash from defense and technology
contractors Senators and Congressmen were hooked like addicts.
Elected officials would repeatedly promise reform, pledge control and
vow restraint. As with addicts, they lied and deceived while
continuing to abuse the taxpayers' money.
However, as our military no longer faced a
Soviet menace of hundreds of divisions, thousands of jets and scores
of attack ships, we needed to curtail massive defense outlays - even
though it would cost jobs back home. The solution was to form a
Commission of former government officials no longer seeking
reelection, or higher office to deal with the issue. This disaffected
group could dispassionately evaluate budgets, programs, needed
improvements and fundamental requirements.
BRAC was able to successfully reduce dozens of
duplicative vote-buying military bases in Republican and Democrat
districts alike. It gave us a means to accomplish what our Congress
and President refused to tackle.
Since we initially began the BRAC process, the
United States has engaged in four wars: the Persian Gulf War, the War
on Terror, the Iraq War, and in Afghanistan. Without entering into
the politics of whether we should fight these wars, in each instance,
a DOD that had been streamlined by BRAC was still able to
successfully execute its mission.
Now it's time to fight the financial war; time
to get our house in order. On several occasions, John McCain has
rightly accused Congress and presidents of, "spending like
drunken sailors", adding, "except that's an insult to
drunken sailors!" It's time to dry out our President, Congress
and the Senate. It's past time to halt the drunken spree of spending
Our strong economic circumstances of the
Eisenhower-Kennedy and Reagan-Clinton eras are gone. Our economy is
staggering with minimal growth in manufacturing, incomes and
population. (Without immigration, legal and illegal, America's
population would barely be beyond replacement levels.) The economic
health of the nation cannot sustain an ever-expanding, hyper
regulating and all-consuming government.
How BRAC worked was utter simplicity. The
commission evaluated all programs then gave a sensible plan to reduce
spending, bureaucracy, and duplicative programs. Congress was allowed
a single up or down vote - no amendments, no modifications, no
lobbyists' interference, and no protection of pet projects. All or
nothing - that was the choice. It worked, and overall it worked well.
Though America's defense budget was downsized, five times, we remain
the world's lone superpower.
To BRAC the entire federal government would
finally give us a means of eliminating the infamous "waste,
fraud and abuse" we always hear about at election time. What's
at stake are scores of programs supposedly dealing with real problems
in America. But that begs the question, why do we need 20 to 40
programs to deal with a single problem:
If people are hungry, the answer is getting them
food, not providing them some 40 separate bureaucracies that haven't
"cured" hunger in America.
If ignorance and illiteracy are a plague, then
the cure isn't wasting precious resources on more than 30 separate
bureaus, agencies, offices and initiatives to remedially educate our
children. No, these programs steal resources from the public schools
that persistently complain about underfunding.
Whether housing or healthcare, immigration or
transportation, innovation energy or any other area, government
should or should not be involved in, BRAC will free up resources,
also known as tax dollars, to deal with those issues.
The President's 2010 Simpson-Bowles Commission
on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform insisted on the usual formula of
immediate tax increases along with protracted spending cuts. Let's
have Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles try
something new. With their experience arguing for a balanced
budget and limited spending, let them first begin with the job
evaluating and cutting duplication.
Let these bipartisan leaders cull the heard. Let
their recognized wisdom and team of experts execute a proven
successful strategy. Begin the BRAC and show every tax payer, left
and right, that America won't collapse when bureaucracy is cut,
regulators curtailed, and government duplication eliminated.
Have Simpson-Bowles earn the tax increases they
claim are necessary - make them do the heavy lifting first - BRAC the
federal government. BRAC all of it! Let them name the waste, find the
fraud and spotlight the abuse.
Rather than allowing the House, Senate, and
President to continue haggling over budgets that are never presented
or passed, let's call upon them to enact a simple solution - a
federal government wide BRAC and send it to the President to sign or
veto. It's about time we let the nation know who is serious and who
is not; who is willing to follow courageous American families and
businesses that actually make hard and necessary cuts. Only then
should we again consider trusting the feds with more of our taxes.
serves as the Executive Director of CapStand. Mr Bragan has an
extensive background in political activism having served on numerous
political camnpaigns and, most recently serving on Capitol Hill as a
Congressional Counsel and Legislative Assistant. He has lectured in
20 states on political activism, finance, organization and elections.
He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org