New BRAC round would save money, increase Army readiness
February 12, 2014
By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 12, 2014) -- As the budget shrinks and as the active Army draws down to 490,000, elimination of excess infrastructure is needed, say leaders from the Army's Installations, Housing & Partnerships.
There's a lot of spaces and facilities at installations throughout the U.S. are -- or will soon not -- be fully utilized or just partially utilized, said Paul Cramer, deputy assistant secretary for IHP.
Yet by law, he said, the Army is required to maintain those facilities -- plumbing, heating, air and so on.
So the Army's recommendation to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Congress, is that a new round of BRAC -- base realignment and closure -- is needed for 2017, he said.
The Army is finalizing its review of its database on infrastructure status and will share its findings of excess capacity to OSD, he said.
OSD will present its draft BRAC legislative proposal to Congress most likely by April.
IHP provides policy, programming and oversight of the secretary of the Army's Title 10 responsibilities in real estate, military construction, housing, engineering and BRAC and reports to Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment.
If Congress authorizes another BRAC round, the Army would develop a long-term force structure plan, said Andy Napoli, assistant for BRAC, IHP. For the last round of BRAC, 2005, the Army provided a 20-year plan, he said.
While there's a lot of talk about Army end strength going down even further than 490,000 and with the budget in a state of flux, Mr Cramer said the Army can, nonetheless provide a rough order of magnitude of additional excess capacity created by further force structure cuts by plugging possible changes into its facility requirement models and algorithms.
"You have to know where you're at first, in order to know where you want to be," he said, describing the process they're now finalizing.
During a media engagement the other day, Hammack told the interviewer "we want all installations to be 100 percent utilized, not 75 or 85 percent," Napoli said.
In other words, a new BRAC round should not be done in piecemeal, shaving infrastructure from every single the installation to balance the reductions. Rather, it would be more prudent in terms of management and readiness to close underutilized installations and consolidate the remainder, he said.
Napoli explained that reducing the infrastructure and manpower of an installation by, say, 20 percent, would not benefit the community outside the gate. That 20 percent reduction would have a ripple effect in the community, with losses in revenues for hotels, fast food, real estate and so on.
If a community doesn't subscribe to a BRAC closure, they'd be locking themselves in to that 20 percent or whatever cut is made, he said, and they wouldn't have as much say in how the land or structures are utilized as they would under BRAC.
On the other hand, if a facility were slated to close under BRAC, the community would, by law, have more tools, grants, and input in how the land and facilities are reutilized, he continued.
And, those facilities that are not affected by BRAC or that gain through re-consolidation, would not be harmed.
"We think there's an argument to be made that there's goodness for all communities to be in on the BRAC talks process," Napoli said.
Cramer said there are examples of communities "that fought BRAC05 and now say it was the best thing that happened to us."
There is life after BRAC. He cited a number of installations including Port San Antonio, Texas, Fort Ord, Calif., and Fort Monmouth, N.J., that were turned over to the community which redeveloped the land and structures commercially with subsequent benefits in employment and tax revenue.
Mr Cramer added that the reserve component, particularly the National Guard, has expressed some interest in a future round of BRAC.
In BRAC05, he said a limited number of states decided to come onboard and as a result they found cost savings and other efficiencies by consolidating smaller armories into larger ones near population centers.
States not participating in BRAC05 saw that and now they too want to get in on the benefits, he said.
NEW BRAC NOT SAME AS OLD
The proposed BRAC17 would not resemble the BRAC05 round, Napoli said. For one, BRAC05 was more expensive than other rounds before it because Army force structure at the time was increasing due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Secondly, installations in Korea and Germany were being turned over to the host countries and tens of thousands of Soldiers were returning to the U.S. and more spaces were needed for them here at home.
Third, BRAC05 was also used as a tool to convert the Army from a Cold War legacy force to a modern, more easily deployable modular brigade combat team structure.
Even with those cost increases, Napoli said the Army is realizing more than a billion dollars of savings a year as a result of BRAC05. "That's not an insignificant return on investment."
Napoli and Cramer both said BRAC17 won't have those three variables in play and that even greater cost savings and efficiencies could be realized.
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