WASHINGTON -- New rounds of military base realignment and closures proposed for 2013 and 2015 will look different from the last round of BRAC, especially for the Air Force, which has a base in Northern Utah.
The new effort will focus on completely shedding infrastructure, and the Air Force is likely to drive the process because of its excess facilities, raising questions about the future of some installations, including Hill Air Force Base.
But BRAC, at least, offers communities a formal voice in the process. Already mandated defense cuts of $487 billion don't.
The last BRAC, in 2005, was about consolidating and shifting around resources, in many cases growing the size of military installations, said Tim Ford, chief executive officer of the Association of Defense Communities in Washington.
"This is going to be about downsizing and getting rid of infrastructure that's not needed," he said.
Air Force officials have made it no secret the service has 20 percent more facilities than needed.
The Pentagon proposed the two new rounds of BRAC in the 2013 defense budget.
To conduct a military base realignment and closure, the Defense Department gathers information from all installations, analyzes it and then gives base-by-base recommendations to lawmakers and a BRAC commission, Phil Coyle, a defense analyst who served on the 2005 BRAC Commission, wrote in an online article for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Congress usually revises existing law before authorizing a new round of BRAC. That takes time, and it's an election year, Coyle wrote.
But Winslow Wheeler, a defense analyst with the Center for Defense Information, said Congress hasn't done anything of significance in a long time.
"People who are looking to Congress to be a hero in the BRAC process, whether they're for it or against it, they're going to be disappointed," he said.
Historically, Congress has been opposed to BRAC when it has been proposed, Ford said.
Still, BRAC rounds were conducted in 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 2005.
"It has a way of moving forward sometimes even if people don't like it," Ford said. "It's just a bitter pill that everyone has to swallow."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is campaigning for BRAC as budgets shrink.
The military is facing $487 billion in cuts over the next 10 years, and the possibility looms for $500 billion more unless lawmakers head off sequester -- mandated automatic spending reductions driven by an arbitrary budget cap -- before January 2013.
Coyle thinks Panetta's announcement is a warning to Congress: "BRAC is the lesser of two evils compared to sequestration."
Coyle also thinks BRAC is inevitable "for all practical purposes" because of planned reductions in troops and weapon systems.
Over five years, the military proposes cutting more than 100,000 troops, including 10,000 Air Force members.
The Air Force is set to jettison six fighter squadrons and retire 200 aircraft in 2013 alone, as well as almost 300 aircraft over the next five years, Coyle wrote.
At the mere mention of BRAC, communities with military installations circle the wagons. As the economy falters, the loss of missions or even an entire base, along with related jobs and population, could hit extra hard.
The threat of losing Hill Air Force Base has officials across the state and especially from surrounding communities -- including Ogden, Clearfield, Roy, Sunset, Layton and Riverdale -- on alert.
A group called the Utah Defense Alliance is seeking $500,000 from the Utah Legislature this session so it can better promote the base during BRAC hearings.
HAFB is the largest employer in the state and is home to many operational and support missions, with the Ogden Air Logistics Center serving as the host organization, according to the base website.
The center provides worldwide engineering and logistics management for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt II and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, the site states. The base also performs depot maintenance of the F-16, A-10 and C-130 Hercules aircraft.
Wheeler said communities standing to lose in BRAC should consider what that loss means for the nation and not just for the communities themselves.
"The Defense Department won't be wasting money on an activity it no longer needs to do," he said.
The national defense budget is supposed to be in line with threats and military needs, Wheeler said.
"It's not supposed to be commensurate with local economic needs, and if we lose sight of that, we're all in big trouble."
The Standard-Examiner contributed to this article.