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American Forces Press Service

BRAC Offers Unmatched Cost Savings, Pentagon Official Says

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2012 – The Defense Department’s request for two new rounds of base realignments and closures should be compared to the cost effectiveness of the first four BRAC rounds, not those done in 2005 to transform installations to match force structure, a Pentagon official said today.

“The math is straightforward,” Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told a Senate panel. “BRAC is the single most effective thing the department has ever done in terms of producing greater efficiency and savings.”

At a Pentagon news conference today, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the two rounds are being proposed as part of “good fiscal discipline.”

“We thought it was important to at least put BRAC on the table,” Little said. “We’re aware of the concerns raised about BRAC, but as a fiscal matter, we think it’s important to look at additional cost savings through this process.”

Robyn and other defense leaders say the department needs BRAC rounds in fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014 to meet constricting budgets. She reiterated those needs today to the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on readiness and management support. Ranking members of the subcommittee said they oppose more BRAC rounds, mostly in light of the 2005 process, which officials say had higher upfront costs and a slower return on savings than expected.

The $11.2 billion DOD installations and environment budget request is down from $13 billion appropriated for the current year. The budget request, which includes $4 billion for environmental work -- mostly installation clean-up and pollution prevention -- and $4 billion for installations’ energy use, does not reflect the BRAC proposal, Robyn said. The request for military construction is $3.6 billion for 103 projects, down 32 percent from the current year, she added.

The department receives about $4 billion in annual savings from the 2005 BRAC, Robyn said, but she acknowledged those realignments and closures won’t yield a net savings until 2018. By contrast, she said, the department has reaped $8 billion in annual recurring savings from the first four rounds of BRAC, which occurred from 1989 to 1995, Robyn said.

“That’s the equivalent of buying three Apache attack helicopters or four Virginia-class submarines,” she said.

The 2005 BRAC is not the right comparison because it was designed more for transforming installations to meet military needs during wartime than for savings and eliminating excess capacity, Robyn said.

“That was a period of growth in the military, and [BRAC] reflected the goals and needs of that time,” she said. “It was not about saving money and space.” Today, the military needs to reduce its installation space to match downsizing plans, she added.

The BRAC process gives a six-year window for implementing realignments and closures. Then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld broke with past practice and delayed the 2005 BRAC implementation for six years because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Robyn said.

“That turned out to be a problem, because delay always is more expensive,” she said, citing inflation and high construction costs due to Hurricane Katrina and a global demand for construction materials as factors. “We were putting out bids at the worst possible time,” she said.

“The lesson from that is ‘Do not delay the implementation of BRAC rounds, because it eliminates flexibility,’” she said.

Also, Robyn said, the Army spent additional money during the 2005 BRAC process by using new construction instead of renovations. “Over and over again, they decided to do more than they had planned because they thought the benefits were worth it,” she said.

Katherine G. Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment, agreed that the 2005 round “was a very different BRAC.” The Army closed 11 installations and realigned 53, spending $18 billion in construction costs, she said. However, she said, the process improved the National Guard and Army Reserve, and made the Army more efficient at training.

The Army has been doing its own “BRAC-like” process for downsizing overseas, where the process is not required, Hammack said, noting it has closed 97 sites in Europe ,and plans to close another 23, mostly in Germany. It has closed 34 sites in South Korea, and plans to close 20 more sites there, she added.

Terry A. Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, said the 2005 BRAC process did not meet the service’s expectations of reducing its footprint. The Air Force had about the same 24 percent excess capacity that it has now, he said.

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