Money savings from a new round of BRAC would be enough to buy 22 F-18 Hornet fighter jets or four Virginia-class submarines, according to McClintock. It also could buy another large batch of F-35 stealth fighters.
"BRAC reduces fixed costs they would have with infrastructure," said Frederico Bartels, policy analyst for defense budgeting at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank. "That is the only way at getting at those fixed costs because there are a long of congressional limitations placed on what DoD can do with its physical infrastructure."
Heritage Foundation supports a new round of BRAC to "right-size" the DOD infrastructure, saying it would allow the Pentagon to do "a rigorous and transparent review of its current and future infrastructure needs, including closing bases and facilities as appropriate." Even so, the conservative think tank also believes "some excess infrastructure may be worth keeping, as a hedge against future needs."
Some of the opposition for another round of base closures comes from lawmakers who say the costs of consolidation are too high and that local communities depend on these bases for their livelihood.
Mandy Smithberger, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight, said the federal government usually helps communities adjust to base closures. She also said a U.S. Government Accountability Office study found that communities closed under the last BRAC round in 2005 actually did better under the Great Recession than average communities across the country.
"There are ways to have soft landings," said Smithberger.
However, there are others who suggest a new round of BRAC should wait until President Donald Trump completes his plans to expand the military, including his stated goal to add more troops.
Also, some congressional critics of the BRAC program maintain that the 2005 consolidation ended up having savings below original expectations.
The 2005 BRAC was advertised originally by the Pentagon of having an implementation cost of about $21 billion, but that number grew to about $35.1 billion, largely reflecting cost overruns from construction costs. It impacted 24 facilities nationally and resulted in the relocation of around 125,000 people, including troops, their families and civilian employees.
Even though the last BRAC round did turn out to be perhaps more expensive than expected, proponents of the process say it wasn't entirely a base closure program but was a realignment of large facilities. There also were several projects related to support the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, including training and operations support.
Cato's Preble said resistance in Congress to another BRAC comes from a misconception that when a military base closes it always means bad news for local communities and that they can't bounce back.
"There's' a lot of resistance on Capitol Hill, unfortunately. There's a belief that when a base closes it has a devastating impact on the surrounding communities. And my research shows that that's not actually the case."
Added Preble: "In most cases, the surrounding community finds a way to redirect those resources to more productive ends and they end up – sometimes quite quickly – with a much more diverse economic base. They have a stronger workforce, better pay, and are less dependent on a single source."
As an example, he said when Philadelphia's Naval Shipyard closed in the 1990s it was "a grim time and people were pretty pessimistic." But he said the area bounced back and today is "just unbelievable" with a business building commercial ships and private businesses and retail establishments.
He also cited the success following the closure of Naval Air Station Brunswick in Maine, part of the 2005 BRAC round. The facility was turned over to civilian use and attracted new companies and development, adding significant property tax revenue for local communities and new jobs. Likewise, Austin's Bergstrom Air Force Base, located seven miles outside downtown, was closed and later converted to a commercial airport serving the growing community.
"The Austin airport is now a huge, modern airport that Austin was desperate to build for a long, long time," said Preble. "The closure of the Air Force base, in many respects, solved a critical problem for the city."