Critics of Sequester Forget All About BRAC

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch, Cagle CartoonsIt was 25 years ago that our country struggled with what to do with the surplus military bases around the country.  Prudent management of our national budget dictated that a large number  be shuttered and that could be done without any threat to our defense capability.  But, politics and jobs—that was another thing all together.  Politics and jobs--sound a little familiar?  This experience introduced the “BRAC” to America.

When it is all said and done our current “Sequester” is really a form of the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1988 or “BRAC.”  Under the leadership of then President Ronald Reagan, the Congress passed BRAC to force action, even if it wasn’t political popular with some Senators and Representatives in Washington.  Under the BRAC, a list of military bases and posts that should be closed was submitted for all to see, with a critical caveat—delete as is, or replace—but delete—end of discussion.  It is the same take or leave it philosophy behind the sequester today.

The President has used this difficult appropriations belt tightening to admonish the Congress to what he believes to be the necessity for reforming our tax and budget structure.  The Congress—clearly still badly split along partisan lines, just cannot do it.  So just as with BRAC—we say, ‘fine, we will just cut $85 billion this year, and $1.2 Trillion over the next 10 years, across the board.’  Purists will say no, you are excluding the real problem to tax reform—the politically radioactive entitlements.  Realists will say, ‘One thing at a time—at least we are getting started to balance this monster.’

As former lawmaker, I think the good of sequestration clearly outweighs the bad.  It is a healthy wack at a budget which totals in the trillions.  It is a start, and will sensitize the faint of heart—mainly the tepid members of Congress, that the process is real and is going to really hurt.  But it is going to happen, and there is no going back.  Actually I think the cultural shock of the sequestration process is going to position our leaders and our country to now move into the next phase of tax and budget reform—the entitlements.  None of the reforms to be considered will qualify for “Profiles in Courage” Awards, but at least the dialogue will seriously begin about Social Security/Medicare start dates, COLA formulas, and co-pays, in earnest.  The often-maligned term of loopholes will now start getting serious attention.  The Republican mantra of outsourcing, vouchers, and triggers will re-surface during each discussion.  It will really be the BRAC discussion of 25 years ago, all over again.

So, if my prediction comes true, it will be an ugly painful process—that is, the whole experience of sequestration.  But the ends will probably justify the means.  The numbers will be closer to where they need to be.  The market will be euphoric, and members of Congress will stop attacking each other, and start really attacking tax and budget reform.  And the successful process which started 25 years ago is attributable, at least in part, to the BRAC and President Ronald Reagan. 

Way to go Gipper.

Robert W. McKnight is a former Florida state senator and representative, who represented South Dade County and the Florida Keys from 1974-1982. He has written two books on Florida politics and is a political commentator on Facing Florida and for The Huffington Post and The Contributor.  He also has a political blog and can be reached at

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