BRAC process sets stage for future infrastructure

  • Published
  • By Jim Garamone
  • American Forces Press Service
The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process will set the stage for the military well into the future, Defense Department officials said here May 10.

Officials said this is the best chance the department will have to reset the force to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

"We don't know where the next threat will come from, but we know one will come, and we must be ready," said a senior DOD official.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's recommendations for base closure and realignment are due to the nine-member BRAC commission "not later than" May 16.

The process will allow DOD to "rationalize" its infrastructure to match what planners believe will be the force structure for the future, said Michael Wynne, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. The changes, he said, will allow DOD to put in place the infrastructure needed to continue the transformation process.

"We tried to think about how to maximize joint utilization," Mr. Wynne said. This will allow the services to better share resources and improve efficiency, he said. It will also allow the services to facilitate joint operations and joint training.

Finally, the process will "convert waste to warfighting," Mr. Wynne said. Resources now devoted to maintaining capabilities no longer needed take money away "from the tip of the spear."

Philip Grone, deputy undersecretary for installations and environment, agreed with Mr. Wynne's assessment. In the four previous BRAC rounds -- 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 -- the department went through 97 major closings, 55 major restructurings and 235 "minor actions." The net savings through fiscal 2001 was about $18 billion. The yearly saving since 2001 is $7.3 billion.

Mr. Grone reviewed the timeline for the process. He said Secretary Rumsfeld must present his recommendations to the BRAC Commission by May 16. The commissioners will hold hearings and visit installations through September.

At that point, they give their recommendations to President Bush for his review and approval, Mr. Grone said. The list has an "all-or-nothing" provision. The president must accept or reject the entire list. If he approves, the process moves to Congress.

If the president disagrees with portions of the list, he can return it once to the commission. He may include specific recommendations. The commissioners can take the list and "change it or not. It is up to them," Mr. Grone said. They then return it to the president. If the president still disagrees, the process ends. No president has disapproved a BRAC list.

In Congress, it is also an all-or-nothing effort, Mr. Grone said. Congress can disapprove the list or do nothing, and after 45 days the list becomes law. If all goes well, DOD can begin implementing the law sometime in December, he said.

There are a couple of changes in the process from previous BRAC rounds. First, the recommendations of joint cross-service groups -- looking at common functions across the services -- have been part of the process. In the past, joint teams could only advise the services.

Military value is the primary consideration for base closure and realignment, but Congress specifically ordered DOD officials to consider surge capabilities in their deliberations, officials said.