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Official discusses BRAC with Congress

WASHINGTON -- In congressional testimony March 18, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics discussed the service's successes and roadblocks in dealing with the base realignment and closure process.

Nelson F. Gibbs told the Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee on military construction that the Air Force is proud of its record working on the BRAC process.

"There have been 22 closures and 19 realignments," Gibbs said. "Over 87,000 acres will eventually be transferred back to local communities. Over 60 percent of those acres have already been transferred and another 30 percent of them are currently in long-term lease."

Gibbs' testimony, and the testimony of other service assistant secretaries, was given as the Department of Defense moves toward a fifth round of BRAC.

"We believe past BRAC practices have been a success, and we believe that we are prepared to move forward with the 2005 round for the disposal of properties in a very expeditious manner," Gibbs said.

However, he said, the process used to transfer land out of the Air Force's possession has made the transfer slow. The process requires the Air Force to first check with other military departments to see if they need the land and, after that, to check with other federal agencies.

"In the case of transference, one of the largest delays ... has been in dealing with other federal agencies," Gibbs said. "Then, moving on to the local agencies, the things that have caused us the greatest difficulty are cases where the local community has been unable to come to a conclusion relatively quickly as to what they want done with the properties.

"In this business, the longer it takes, the more difficult it becomes as positions become entrenched," he said.

Gibbs also discussed the Air Force ideology and methodology for cleaning up any environmental pollution before property is transferred out of the service's control.

"We have entered into an agreement in Colorado where, effectively, the cleanup is being undertaken by a private contractor," Gibbs said. "This is a methodology that has turned out to be very effective there, and I think we will find it to be used more and more."

The Air Force is using performance-based contracting when it comes to the cleanups, Gibbs said. In such a process, everybody involved agrees on what the outcome of a cleanup should look like, as opposed to how it should actually be done.

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