BRAC initiative resurfaces in House committee

China Lake ‘postured very well’ to weather another round

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

While locals await interpretation of how the recent Department of Defense hiring freeze will impact China Lake and its thousands of local employees, reports of another Base Realignment and Closure process have began circulating — triggering mixed response.

China Lake suffered in the 1990s, when billets shifted away from the local base triggered an exodus of hundreds of families from the Indian Wells Valley. The 2005 round benefited the Naval Air Weapons Station to the tune of hundreds of millions in investments to infrastructure. Additional billets were shifted back to China Lake, though with a rapidly retiring technical workforce, the numbers have remained largely in flux since then.

Earlier this week, Cal Watchdog circulated a report that the Pentagon is eager to launch a new round of BRAC in order to free up billions.

While the committee has put forward a bill that would trigger another BRAC in 2018, the House has yet to show support for that action.

Of the thousands of military installations in the nation, Califor-nia is home to 322. The original article released on listed China Lake as one of two vulnerable to closure.

The author characterizes the base, which covers more than 1 million acres and employees, as at risk, having been recommended for closure by the Pentagon in 2005.

However, officials close to the mission of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division — the primary tenant at China Lake — have historically voiced confidence in the high expertise and unique capability, and its ability to weather a fair evaluation of military value.

Cal Watchdog went on to credit House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for his role in bringing to light the value of China Lake to national defense.

(Editor’s note: by Thursday morning all references to China Lake and McCarthy had been removed from the online article.)

Scott O’Neil, who recently took over as executive director of the China Lake Alliance, and former executive director of NAWCWD, said that the resurgence of discussion revolving around BRAC comes as no surprise.

“The Air Force and Army are on record saying they have too much infrastructure and need a BRAC.” He added that the Navy’s participation in past BRACs has been high — indicating that future participation would be low.

If the House does pass a bill implementing a new BRAC, said O’Neil, “NAWCWD is currently postured very well.

“Its military value and recognition are high. It is seen as the Navy’s innovation center of excellence and its work is not only highly regarded but it’s also extremely important.”

He cautioned that the one challenge could be water.

“That’s why it’s critically important to the local Groundwater Sustainability Agency going and to get a state of California-approved plan in place to have way forward with regard to water.”

Story First Published: 2017-02-03