Defense Policy Underlies BRAC
While the Base Realignment and Closure program saves the Defense
Department billions of dollars each year, Pentagon officials say
the program is not just about saving money, but modernizing and
restructuring the military to meet the country's needs.
The four previous
BRAC rounds have saved the military about $17.7 billion, and the 2005 round could
save up to $48.8 billion over 20 years when an estimated 25 percent of excess
infrastructure is closed, the department estimates.
other rounds, BRAC 2005 is also focused on upgrading the military and military
technology. But unlike other BRAC rounds, the 2005 BRAC process is being conducted
in the shadow of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The present national security needs and the military's role in defending the homeland
have dramatically evolved since the end of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union
was the United States' main rival.
And, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
said in a Nov. 15, 2002 memorandum, the military requires an overhaul to meet
these new needs.
"BRAC 2005 should be the means by which we reconfigure
our current infrastructure into one in which operational capacity maximizes both
warfighting capability and efficiency," wrote Rumsfeld.
To do this,
the Department of Defense proposes closing 33 major bases, reducing personnel
at 29 major bases and closing or consolidating 775 minor bases. Forty-nine bases
are slated to receive "major gains" -- a major gain being 400 or more
military and civilian personnel.
The consolidations and service and personnel
transfers that will result from BRAC 2005 will lead to more "joint utilization
of assets" -- where bases and facilities with the same function are used
by multiple services, reducing unnecessary redundancies, according to the military.
The Defense Department argues that closing or consolidating bases
saves money, which helps to balance the cost of carrying out a
war, and allows the military to reorganize troops based on national
But the independent,
bipartisan BRAC Commission, which is reviewing the Pentagon's proposal for submission
to President Bush, has expressed some concerns about the timing of the base changes.
During a May 16, 2005 meeting with top military advisers and officials,
the BRAC Commission raised concerns about the reduction of U.S. bases and support
services while thousands of troops are serving overseas in combat zones or foreign
bases that may themselves be closing.
BRAC Commissioner Philip Coyle said that, according to information
provided to the commission, as many as 70,000 troops posted overseas
may come back to the United States. He asked Defense Department
officials if they would be ready to accommodate such an influx
when it appeared the BRAC recommendations only accounted for 15,000
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld replied that the department was working very closely
with the Overseas Base Closing Commission to make sure U.S. bases have enough
capacity to take care of returning troops.
Geoffrey Prosch, principal deputy
assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment, addressed the
same issue in a May 27, 2005 interview with the Armed Forces Information Service.
Prosch said the issue of returning troops has forced the military to evaluate
base closings even more thoroughly and cautiously.
"The timing for
this BRAC has been perfect for the Army because it has allowed us through our
analysis process to figure out the right location to reset units from overseas
as we bring them back," he said.
Another area of concern for the commission
and some politicians is the effect BRAC 2005 will have on recruitment efforts,
especially for Reserve and National Guard units, which have been used heavily
in the Iraq war.
The majority of the 775 smaller bases being closed or
combined are Army Reserve and National Guard posts and recruitment facilities.
With military recruiters already struggling to meet national goals, the commission
was troubled that enrollment will drop further.
And, commissioners argued,
fewer guard and reserve posts will mean potential new troops for those units will
have to travel further for drills and meetings, which could further hamper recruitment
During the May 16 meeting, Gen. Richard Myers, outgoing chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he did not foresee recruiting challenges as
a result of BRAC 2005.
don't think in the process that we anticipated that we would have difficulties
in recruiting and retention," Myers said. "And no doubt there will be
some inconveniences, where somebody that was used to drilling a couple of miles
away may have to drive further for that training. But we think the training will
be better and in some cases, joint, which it needs to be, as opposed to having
individual armories out there, where if you want to access, again, these people
to go do military missions, a lot of retraining is necessary."
also said the senior leadership of the Army Reserve and the National Guard support
the latest BRAC round.
Along with BRAC commissioners, politicians have weighed in with
concerns over the Defense Department's recommendations.
Armed Services Committee member Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., wrote in an editorial
for USA Today on May 13, "The world has changed since the current BRAC round
began in 2001. Homeland defense is more important than ever since 9/11.
bases are concentrated in the South and Southwest. The states in the Northeast,
Midwest and Pacific have few military bases but the bulk of the population, so
an adequate regional balance must be an essential part of this BRAC evaluation."
The Defense Department has countered that homeland security needs
are adequately met under the restructuring program and that bases
in the South and West provide more room and more security for
The BRAC commissioners, all of whom have
extensive national defense experience, have held hearings to evaluate DOD's proposals
throughout the summer ahead of sending their recommendations to President Bush
and Congress in early fall.