To move or not to move
June 1, 2009
THE 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, better known as BRAC, is many things to many people.
To Congress, the Department of Defense and Army leaders, BRAC is an important tool to save money and realign forces and capabilities for the future. To a lot of Soldiers, itAca,!a,,cs just another move. But to many Army civilians who are accustomed to putting down roots and building 20-year careers at one installation, it can be both scary and devastating.
The decision to move or not move with a job is difficult and profoundly personal for the 22,294 Army civilians and countless Soldiers and family members affected by BRAC. It is a decision dependant on many factors such as school-age children, ailing parents, spousesAca,!a,,c jobs and the current housing market.
Based on past BRACs, the Army only expects about 30 percent of employees to move with their jobs, although Dr. Susan Duncan, the assistant G-1 for civilian personnel, said she hopes this round will be different, as the experience and skills those civilians have are important to the Army. She said the current job market is actually leading more employees to seriously consider moving.
Duncan encouraged everyone to at least try and visit the new locations before making up their minds. She speaks with the experience of a former Army wife who made many unwilling moves. She remembered being horrified at the idea of moving to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., but said she ended up loving it. She added that the ArmyAca,!a,,cs phased approach to the moves has also helped, as employees who have already moved call back to tell their colleagues how wonderful the new duty station is. There might be a lower cost of living, better schools, shorter commutes and more recreational activities near the new installation.
Aca,!A"Learn everything you can about what your command is offering you and what it really means,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"What is the new place really like' If you canAca,!a,,ct go or donAca,!a,,ct want to go, okay, understood. We will do everything possible to get you another position. Just give it a fair shot and approach it with an open mind.Aca,!A?
Duncan pointed out that the moves would open new positions and promotion opportunities as a result of vacancies left by employees who will decide not to move. She added that if the expected 70 percent of employees remain behind, that would equal about 46,816 new personnel actions, including more than 30,000 for recruitment and hiring.
The DOD and the Army have several options available for employees who either donAca,!a,,ct want to move or donAca,!a,,ct have a choice because their garrison is closing. First, Duncan said, theyAca,!a,,cre looking at a job-exchange program, especially in cases where each spouse is employed by different tenant organizations that are going in different directions.
In one case at the Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., a TRADOC employee nearing retirement switched positions with a mid-level garrison employee whose job was disappearing, for example. He still gets to retire and she will stay employed and move with TRADOC to Fort Eustis, Va. ItAca,!a,,cs a win-win situation, and Duncan said job exchanges could also be used in cases where an employee might not be able to go to, say, Fort Knox, Ky., but may have an elderly parent near Fort Benning, Ga., who needs care.
Of course, job swaps wouldnAca,!a,,ct work for everyone, and not every BRAC-affected employee is ready to retire or even eligible for early retirement. Duncan said itAca,!a,,cs up to the local command whether to offer Voluntary Early Retirement Authority or Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay. The two programs are really to offset the effects of a reduction in force and she said the Army doesnAca,!a,,ct want to lose people.
Aca,!A"The Army has invested a great deal of its heart and soul in those people and conversely, those people, great patriots, have invested a great deal in this nation through the Army,Aca,!A? added Col. Jim Balocki, chief of the BRAC division in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. Aca,!A"So itAca,!a,,cs really our desire that with every position that moves, we would like to be able to move the person with it.Aca,!A?
Because that isnAca,!a,,ct feasible, the Army will take care of the employees who wonAca,!a,,ct, canAca,!a,,ct or donAca,!a,,ct have the option to move, said Duncan. That means offering resume-writing and interviewing classes, job-retraining programs and career fairs.
And it also means making use of the priority placement list program, an important tool to keep DOD employees within the DOD, said Shelia Dent, chief of the employment policy division at G-1 (Personnel). Most BRAC-affected employees will be eligible to register for the program a year before the expected move date.
At that point, civilian personnel representatives will meet with employees interested in the PPP to explain the registration process. They will help employees identify up to four additional job series they might be well-qualified for based on previous assignments or collateral duties. Ultimately, itAca,!a,,cs up to employees and they can also pick geographic locations as narrow as the Pentagon or Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. They also have the option to register for positions one or two grades lower than their current assignments, with grade retention and saved pay for about two years.
According to Dent, there are three rungs of priority in the PPP. Employees who are losing their jobs within 60 days have first priority for DOD jobs that meet their criteria. Next are employees losing their jobs a year or two out, followed by employees who have already been through PPP, but had to take a lower grade. They are third on the priority list for jobs with their original grades. Civilians can stay on the PPP for up to a year after being separated.
They also have the option of the federal-wide Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program, and civilians who meet the criteria can participate in both programs. Dent said that employees must have a reduction-in-force letter with separation date before they can participate in ICTAP. Instead of registering for a program that would automatically match them to jobs, under ICTAP, civilians must identify openings on <A HREF=Aca,!A?www.USAJOBS.govAca,!A?>www.USAJOBS.gov</a> and other sites and identify themselves as ICTAP-eligible on their applications.
Married Army civilians are facing a situation military couples know all too well: their spousesAca,!a,,c lives and careers are also turning upside down with BRAC. And with rising unemployment, some employees are concerned about whether their spouses will be able to find jobs if they move. Duncan said there will be many vacancies for which spouses can apply, and that the Army is considering special placement programs like the military spouse preference program.
Aca,!A"I think there certainly will be enough vacancies that weAca,!a,,cll be able to accommodate most of our spouses who are looking for employment with the federal government,Aca,!A? she said.
Another major concern employees have in todayAca,!a,,cs economy is whether theyAca,!a,,cll be able to sell their homes and recoup the cost of their mortgages, and the Army Corps of Engineers has two programs to help.
Any Army civilian affected by BRAC is eligible for the Defense National Relocation Program, said David Gage, chief of DNRP, explaining that it assists civilians in selling their homes, and purchases the homes at market value if necessary. Civilians must have authorization for DNRP services on their original permanent-change-of-station orders. The orders canAca,!a,,ct later be amended with the authorization.
Once they have orders in hand, employees can go to the DNRP Web site at <A HREF=www.nab.usace.army.mil/dnrp/> www.nab.usace.army.mil</A> and download the application form. Civilians must then turn their completed forms over to their human resources offices, which will authorize the services and fax the forms to the DNRP office with copies of the orders. Within three days of receipt, DNRP counselors will call civilians to review eligibility and timing and ensure theyAca,!a,,cre ready to market their properties, and refer them to relocation-management companies.
After two independent appraisals (the employee selects the appraisers), the employee must actively market his home for 60 days. If he receives a legitimate outside offer within that time, the contractor will purchase the home for that price, and if he does not, the contractor will buy the home for the appraised value. According to Gage, by accepting the buy-out offers, employees incur no selling costs like commissions, transfer taxes or attorneysAca,!a,,c fees.
In todayAca,!a,,cs market, however, getting the appraised value may not help much. ThatAca,!a,,cs where the HomeownerAca,!a,,cs Assistance Program comes in. In past BRACs, HAP has only applied when a drop in home values could be directly linked to a BRAC announcement, said HAP assistant program manager Don Chapman. The program would pay a civilian or a Soldier the difference between his homeAca,!a,,cs selling price and 95 percent of its value on the BRAC announcement date, or pay off an upside-down mortgage, whichever was higher, and also pay the closing costs. If the employee chose not to market his home or couldnAca,!a,,ct sell it, the program would buy it at 75 percent of its value before the announcement date.
That link has been impossible to determine in all but one BRAC 2005 case, Brunswick Naval Air Station, Maine. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009Aca,!"otherwise known as the stimulusAca,!"the program was expanded to cover all BRAC-affected civilians, PCSing servicemembers, wounded warriors and surviving spouses.
Final DOD guidance on implementing these changes had not been released at press time. For up-to-date information, please visit the HAP website at <A HREF=HTTP://HAP.USACE.ARMY.MIL>http://hap.usace.army.mil/.</A>
Aca,!A"ThereAca,!a,,cs a lot of stress on service families because of (the housing market collapse). We also have civilians who are being required to locate. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service is closing most of its offices around the country and moving all these people someplace else. Twenty-two hundred DFAS employees canAca,!a,,ct leave their homes because they canAca,!a,,ct afford to. Army Materiel Command senior staff said they werenAca,!a,,ct going to go to Huntsville, Ala., because they couldnAca,!a,,ct afford to leave Washington. It definitely is a readiness issue. ItAca,!a,,cs a quality of life issue for the personnel involved,Aca,!A? Chapman said, adding that he expects the expanded program to help more people in the next six months than HAP has since its creation in 1966.
Employees need someplace to live on the other end as well, so DNRP offers the free Destination Home Search program to all DOD employees. No orders are necessary, and all Soldiers and civilians have to do is call 1-800-344-2501, to discuss their needs with a counselor who will ultimately refer them to local, experienced realtors.
Aca,!A"If an employee seeks home-finding assistance on their own initiative, they really only represent one single transaction to that agent. Whereas if theyAca,!a,,cre referred through a relocation-company relationshipAca,!A|those relationships represent a valuable flow of business of qualified home buyers from whom the real estate company derives a lot of revenue,Aca,!A? Gage explained, also noting that because mortgage lenders generally consider government employees good credit risks, the program can often help employees find more favorable mortgage terms.
The bottom line is that whatever employees decide, the Army plans to support them and help them begin the next phases of their lives. As September 2011 approaches, employees can relax and remember that whatever decisions they make, theyAca,!a,,cll be the right decisions for them.
<b>What happens when a post closes' </b>
UNDER the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, the Army is scheduled to close 13 depots, ammunition plants and headquartersAca,!"including Forts McPherson, Ga., Monroe, Va., and Monmouth, N.J. Aca,!"and 387 reserve-component facilities. All of these locations must undergo a prescribed re-use process.
First, the Army must ensure that no other federal agencies want the property, said Col. Jim Balocki, chief of the BRAC division in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. If no other agency wants it, the Army will open it up for sale or for use by local communities.
The communities form official re-use authorities, whose boards may include local mayors, members of the community, and the garrison commander. For example, the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority has all of these, as well as advisors from the state of New Jersey. Members of the public can air their ideas and concerns during public meetings, and eventually the authorities develop plans for re-using the closing installations.
The re-use plans must meet specific criteria, such as a certain percentage of housing for the homeless, and the protection of any historic landmarks. The re-use authorities then submit their plans to the Army for approval, because the Army wants to ensure compatible use of the property.
The process can take years. On the Sept. 15, 2011 closure date, the Army wonAca,!a,,ct walk away, lock the doors and hand the keys over to new owners. Instead, skeleton caretaker staffs will remain as the Army prepares to turn the property over. Balocki said he has properties from the 1988 BRAC that are still on his books, for example. This is often because of environmental concerns.
In the mid-20th century, Balocki explained, the Army, and the nation as a whole, didnAca,!a,,ct know what we know now, that it was harmful to dump or bury chemicals, for example. So the Army has to evaluate and remediate those properties, unless the new owner agrees to do so as part of the sale.
Aca,!A"We invest and have been investing for many years on ensuring properties from previous rounds of BRAC are clean, clear and ready to use, and we have had some success. Some of them, though, are pretty nasty. WeAca,!a,,cve got some that have required years of investment and will require years more,Aca,!A? Balocki said.
He noted that a former industrial ammunition plant might never be appropriate for a residential community, but that it could have other uses. A movie studio recently made the winning bid on an old 78-acre engine plant in Connecticut that still needs some environmental remediation. The studio is willing to do the remediation, Balocki said, because they plan to use old tank platforms as ready-made sound stages.
Aca,!A"The thing thatAca,!a,,cs really sad about this is the way the acronym BRAC lines up. The last word in BRAC is closure, so thatAca,!a,,cs kind of the thing that rolls off the end of your tongue: closure. But in fact, this is more about the Aca,!EoeRAca,!a,,c or the realignment part and transformation than it is about closure. Because at the end of the day, the closures are pretty minimal in terms of the numbers compared to the previous four rounds. This is really about how weAca,!a,,cre going to transform our Army, bring parts of it home from overseas, and how weAca,!a,,cre going to shape the civilian workforce in the future,Aca,!A? he concluded.
<b>BRAC QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE</b>
Civilian Assistance and Re-employment Division Aca,!" CARE is a DOD organization responsible for administering the Priority Placement Program. <A HREF=http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/dnrp/> www.nab.usace.army.mil/dnrp/</A>
Defense National Relocation Program Aca,!" DNRP is a DOD program designed to facilitate the sale (or buy) employeesAca,!a,,c homes at their old duty stations, and help them find homes at their new duty stations. <A HREF=http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/dnrp/> www.nab.usace.army.mil/dnrp/</A>
Department of Labor/State 1 Stop Center Aca,!" When DOL and states pool resources to establish employment/training centers for employees impacted by BRAC.
Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program Aca,!" ICTAP provides that employees adversely affected by BRAC may apply for other Federal vacancies advertised outside of the agency workforce and receive priority consideration if he or she is well qualified. <A HREF=http://www.opm.gov/ctap/>www.opm.gov/ctap/</A>
HomeownerAca,!a,,cs Assistance Program Aca,!" HAP is a DOD program to help Soldiers, civilians, wounded warriors and surviving spouses recoup financial losses when selling their home to PCS and/or move under BRAC. <A HREF="http://hap.usace.army.mil/">http://hap.usace.army.mil/</A>
Job Exchange Aca,!" DOD program which permits a retirement-eligible employee of a non-BRAC activity to change jobs with an employee adversely affected due to an activityAca,!a,,cs scheduled closure or realignment.
Outplacement Subsidy Aca,!" BRAC activities may offer an outplacement subsidy as an incentive to non-DOD federal agencies to hire BRAC-impacted employees who accept employment in another geographic area.
Priority Placement Program Aca,!" PPP is a DOD program for placement of DOD civilian employees who are adversely affected by RIF, BRAC and re-stationing. <A HREF=http://www.cpol.army.mil/library/permiss/631.html>www.cpol.army.mil/library/permiss/631.html</A>
Reduction-in-Force Aca,!" RIF is the federal process for reshaping and drawing down the civilian workforce. <A HREF=http://www.cpol.army.mil/library/permiss/631.html>http://www.cpol.army.mil/library/permiss/631.html</A>
Re-employment Priority List Aca,!" RPL is the federal program that provides priority consideration for an agencyAca,!a,,cs position vacancies for employees who were separated from the agency by RIF in the same commuting area.
Three Rs Aca,!" Recruitment, relocation and retention incentives are delegated to Army activities for use in recruiting new federal employees, offering monetary incentives to current employees to relocate and offering retention incentives to employees who are offered nonfederal employment to remain at an activity for a fixed period.
Transfer of Function Aca,!" TOF is the total transfer of a line of work from one geographic area to another geographic area where the same line of work is not currently being performed. Employees with TOF rights must be offered TOF if the alternative is separation or demotion. An employee who declines TOF may be separated under adverse-action procedures or included in an ongoing RIF.
Transfer of Work Aca,!" TOW is the whole or partial transfer of a line of work or specific positions from one geographic area to another. Employees do not have a right to a TOW, but may be directed by management to relocate. Employees who decline are separated under adverse action procedures.
Voluntary Early Retirement Authority Aca,!" An employee with 50 years of age and 20 years of service, or 25 years of service at any age, may be offered VERA in order to lessen the effect of RIF or to restructure a position as a result of new mission requirements. <A HREF="http://WWW.OPM.GOV/EMPLOY/VERA/VERA01.ASP">www.opm.gov/employ/vera/vera01.asp</A>
Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay Aca,!" VSIP is also called a buyout. VSIP equals the lesser of an employeeAca,!a,,cs earned severance pay amount and $25,000. VSIP is a tool to lessen the effect of RIF or to restructure a position. <A HREF="http://WWW.OPM.GOV/EMPLOY/HTML/VSI.HTM">http://www.opm.gov/employ/html/vsi.htm</A>
VSIP II Aca,!" A VSIP that is offered to a DOD employee not impacted by BRAC to create a vacancy for a BRAC-impacted employee.
Other helpful sites:
<I>Source: The majority of terms are from the Aca,!A"Base Realignment and Closure Smart Book for Commanders.Aca,!A? Others are from interviews with subject matter experts.</I>