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BRAC 2005: On time, on budget in the northeast

September 14, 2011

By Mr Justin Matthew Ward (USACE)

Sept. 15 marks the end of the DoD's six-year Base Realignment and Closure 2005 program. Without question, it was the largest infrastructure investment program the U.S. Army has seen since World War II, with roughly $18 billion in military construction projects executed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

One office, the Army Corps' North Atlantic Division, oversaw about half of this massive military construction program -- roughly $7.5 billion in five years. And it was executed on time and on budget.

"This is a remarkable military construction success story," said Col. Christopher Larsen, the division's acting commander. "But it's really about our people. If anyone is to thank for turning this massive, time-bound program from concept to reality, it's our engineers, project managers, and contractors."

The amount of work the division executed was larger than the previous four BRAC rounds combined, with the majority of that taking place on bases in Maryland and Virginia. Here, about $6.5 billion was invested in infrastructure within nine miles of I-95. Virginia alone saw the tallest building the Army Corps has ever constructed -- the 17-story DoD Complex at the Mark Center in Alexandria -- and the largest DoD building constructed since the Pentagon -- the 2.4 million square-foot National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's Campus East facility in Springfield. Virginia is also home to the 1.3 million square-foot Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, which harnessed a concept called evidence-based design to improve patient outcomes.

"The amount of engineering time and knowledge that went into planning, scoping, designing, and constructing these BRAC projects is truly phenomenal," said Larsen.

Five installations in the northeast saw the majority of new construction -- Fort Belvoir, Va., Fort Lee, Va., Fort Meade, Md., Fort Detrick, Md., and Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md. It was so much work in such a small area and in such a tight schedule, Larsen said, that a whole new work structure had to be set up to accommodate it.

"It was just too much for a district or two to handle," said Larsen. "So we had to create some work sharing agreements within our division to get the work done. And we accomplished that, which I think speaks to our flexibility, our capability, and our customer focus."

Although the BRAC 2005 program was massive, Bob Mawhinney, the division's director of military programs, cautions people from thinking about BRAC in terms of size.

"Yes, BRAC is a colossus of a program that may never be matched in size or speed," said Mawhinney. "But its legacy should be the energy-efficiency standards that have been set."

The DoD's Mark Center complex meets the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Gold standard and uses 40 percent less water and 30 percent less energy than its legacy facilities. NGA's new building is the largest LEED Silver-certified government building in the world. And the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital consumes 30 percent less energy than the medical facilities it replaces.

"Many people may not associate the U.S. Army with energy efficiency," said Mawhinney. "I hope that changes as people learn about what the Corps of Engineers and our partners were able to do."

BRAC 2005 was also advantageous to the Army's operations through the construction of purpose-built facilities that allow the Army to modernize from division-centric to modular brigades, said Katherine Hammack, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and the Environment. These infrastructure improvements will result in cost savings, she added, by having more energy efficient buildings, more co-located forces, and a reduced 'boot print.'

"BRAC has produced tremendous economic benefits to our Army and allows us to use taxpayer dollars more efficiently," said Hammack. "In addition to improving efficiencies, BRAC has also strengthened our enduring installations and their surrounding communities, thereby enhancing the well-being of our Soldiers, their Families and the Civilian workforce."

The U.S. Army was responsible for 47% of the entire DoD BRAC 2005 program. Installation closures in the northeast included Fort Monmouth, NJ, Fort Monroe, Va., and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

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