The Department of Defense released a list of Base Realignment
and Closure (BRAC) recommendations on May 13, 2005 that included 33 major base
closures, 29 major base "realignments" -- meaning a large reduction
in personnel levels, and 49 bases for major gains in personnel.
base closures are bases with an infrastructure value of more than $100 million.
Major realignments are bases losing 400 or more personnel, and major gains are
bases receiving 400 or more new personnel.
In addition to the major base
changes, Pentagon officials also recommended the closure or realignment of 775
To come up with all of its recommendations, Defense Department
officials must follow specific criteria outlined in the law approving
the base closing process. The top factor in the decision-making
process is the military value of an installation and how the installation
helps in bolstering the national defense. Other criteria include
cost savings, local economic impact and environmental effects.
Once the department releases its list of recommendations,
the independent BRAC Commission takes the lead in the base closure process.
The nine-member, 2005 BRAC Commission, an independent bipartisan
group appointed by President Bush and approved by the Senate,
can alter the Defense Department's list. The votes of five commissioners
are needed to remove a base from the closure list; seven votes
are required to add a base.
During its consideration
process, the commission holds public hearings, which give local politicians and
citizens an opportunity to describe how they would be affected by base closures
and to make their best case to remove the facility from the final BRAC list.
Sept. 8, 2005, the BRAC Commission will send its final recommendations to the
White House. President Bush must approve or disapprove of the commission's recommendations
as a whole. He may not make changes.
If he approves the commission's recommendations,
they go to Congress. If he rejects the list, the commission must decide whether
to make revisions and send the modified list back to the president. If the president
disapproves the recommendations a second time, the BRAC process ends and no action
on base closures is taken.
If President Bush signs off on the list, the
recommendations become law within 45 days unless Congress passes a joint resolution
of disapproval. If Congress disapproves the recommendations, no action is taken.
- March 2005 -- President Bush appointed the current
BRAC Commission members and sent their names to the Senate, where they were approved.
- May 13, 2005 -- The Department of Defense released its list of
base realignment and closure recommendations.
- June through August 2005 -- The nine-member BRAC Commission
holds regional hearings around the country. The commission considers
modifications to the original Defense Department recommendations.
- Sept. 8, 2005 -- The commission must send
its recommendations to the White House.
- Sept. 23, 2005 -- The
president must approve or disapprove the commission's recommendations. If he approves
them, they go to Congress and become law in 45 days unless Congress enacts a "joint
resolution of disapproval." If the president disapproves the list, it goes
back to the commission for revision.
In case of initial disapproval
by the president:
- Oct. 20, 2005 -- If the president rejects the BRAC
Commission's initial recommendations the commission has until this date to make
modifications and resubmit them to the White House.
- Nov. 7,
2005 -- The president must approve the revised list and submit it to Congress,
or the BRAC process ends. If the president approves the revised list and sends
it to Congress, it becomes law after 45 days unless Congress enacts a joint resolution
The BRAC Cycle
The 2005 work marks the fifth round of base closures under a method first outlined
in the Base Realignment and Closure Act passed by Congress in 1988.
was envisioned as a way of allowing the executive branch to cut through many of
the political obstacles to closing bases, while still giving Congress a role in
the process. Only one major revision has been made to the process -- starting
in 1990 the secretary of defense had to provide a nonbinding list of recommendations
for the commission to start its work.
Previous BRAC rounds occurred in 1988,
1991, 1993 and 1995.
After 1995, the target date for the next BRAC round
was 2001, but the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that year kept some in the House
of Representatives from voting to consider closing bases, so action was delayed.
When the Bush administration took office in January 2001, the
Defense Department began a series of studies aimed at reviewing
the capabilities and needs of U.S. Armed Forces and facilities.
Among the studies were the Quadrennial Defense Review, an overall
report which is submitted to Congress every four years, and the
Efficient Facilities Initiative, a study the Pentagon said was
aimed at improving fighting capability and saving money. Both
reports were used to assess possible base realignment and closures.
The EFI, in particular, was designed as a first step in instituting
a new round of base closures.
quality force deserves quality facilities," then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff Hugh Shelton told Congress in early September 2001. "That's why
I believe it's essential that we provide the resources that are necessary to stop
and reverse the deterioration at our posts, our camps, our bases and our stations.
One way that the Congress can directly help is to support DOD's Efficient Facilities
Initiative, to dispose of excess bases and facilities."
In its annual report to Congress, the Defense Department said
the 2001 EFI was designed to authorize "(1) an additional
round of base closures and realignments, (2) significant improvements
to the existing base closure process, and (3) a set of tools for
the efficient operation of enduring military installations."
The department estimated that the United States had "between 20 and
25 percent more base capacity than needed for its forces."
Sept. 11, the Senate narrowly passed a new base closure authorization, but the
measure failed in the House as members found it hard to consider closing bases
during a time of national crisis.
The original 2001 Senate authorization bill was supported by the
Defense Department and would have launched a new base closure
round in 2003. In a compromise deal reached in December 2001,
the House and Senate passed a new base closure authorization bill
but delayed its implementation until 2005, jumping over election
years in 2002 and 2004. The bill passed by wide margins in both
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other critics
of Congress' action said the delay was based on political concerns and would be
costly for the nation.
"What that means, very simply, is that the
United States will continue to have something like 20 percent to 25 percent more
bases than we need," he said at the time, according to media reports. "Given
the war on terror, we will be doing something even more egregious, and that is
we will be providing force protection on bases that we do not need."
But some lawmakers, even those who supported the bill, countered that legitimate
local economic considerations were also a factor.
"The problem goes
beyond just the economic loss suffered from base realignment and closure,"
said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. "Those areas that are abandoned by the
military often cannot be easily converted to other productive uses."