The Bayonet

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014

BRAC round would save money, increase readiness

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WASHINGTON — As the budget shrinks and as the active Army draws down to 490,000, elimination of excess infrastructure is needed, say leaders from Army Installations, Housing & Partnerships.

There are a lot of spaces and facilities at installations throughout the U.S. that are not being utilized or are just partially utilized, said Paul Cramer, deputy assistant secretary for Installations, Housing & Partnerships, or IHP.

Yet by law, he said, the Army is required to maintain those facilities.

So the Army’s recommendation to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, known as OSD, and Congress is that a new round of BRAC — base realignment and closure — is needed for 2017, he said.

The Army is finalizing its database on infrastructure status and will give its findings to OSD, he said. In turn, OSD will present the Army’s recommendations — along with those of other services to Congress in the form of draft legislation, most likely by April.

IHP provides policy, programing and oversight of the secretary of the Army’s Title 10 responsibilities in real estate, military construction, housing, engineering and BRAC.

The agency reports to Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.

If Congress authorizes another BRAC round, the Army would develop a long-term force structure plan, said Andy Napoli, assistant for BRAC, IHP.

For the last round of BRAC, in 2005, the Army provided a 20-year plan, he said. While there’s a lot of talk about Army end strength going down even further than 490,000 and with the budget in a state of flux, Napoli said the Army can nonetheless provide an accurate forecast model by plugging in any force structure figures, dollar amounts and infrastructure status.

“You have to know where you’re at first, in order to know where you want to be,” he said, describing the process they’re now finalizing.

SMART REDUCTIONS Napoli said IEE wants for every Army installation to be used at 100 percent. A new BRAC round should not be done in piecemeal, shaving infrastructure from every single installation to balance the reductions. Rather, it would be more prudent in terms of management and readiness to close underutilized installations and consolidate the remainder.

Napoli explained that reducing the infrastructure and manpower of an installation by, say, 20 percent, would not benefit the community outside the gate.

That 20 percent reduction would have a ripple effect in the community, with losses in revenues for hotels, fast food, real estate and so on.

If a community doesn’t subscribe to a BRAC closure, they’d be locking themselves in to that 20 percent or whatever cut is made, he said, and they wouldn’t have a say in how the land or structures are reutilized.

On the other hand, if a facility were slated to close under BRAC, the community would, by law, have a say in how the land and facilities are reutilized, he continued. “We think there’s an argument to be made that there’s goodness for all communities to be in on the BRAC talks process,” Napoli said.

Cramer said there are examples of communities “that fought BRAC 2005 and now say it was the best thing that happened” to them.

He cited a number of installations including Port San Antonio, Texas; Fort Ord, Calif.; and Fort Monmouth, N.J., that were turned over to the community which redeveloped the land and structures commercially with subsequent benefits in employment and tax revenue.

Napoli added that the Reserve Component, particularly the National Guard, has expressed some interest in a future round of BRAC.

In BRAC 2005, he said, a limited number of states decided to come onboard. As a result, they found cost savings and other efficiencies by consolidating smaller armories into larger ones near population centers. States not participating in BRAC 2005 saw that and now they too want to get in on the benefits, he said.

NEW BRAC NOT SAME AS OLD The proposed BRAC 2017 would not resemble the BRAC 2005 round, Napoli said.

For one, BRAC 2005 was more expensive than other rounds before it because force structure at the time was increasing due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Secondly, installations in Korea and Germany were being turned over to the host countries and tens of thousands of Soldiers were returning to the U.S. and more spaces were needed for them.

Third, BRAC 2005 was also used as a tool to convert the Army from a Cold War legacy force to a modern, more easily deployable modular brigade combat team structure.

Even with those cost increases, Napoli said the Army is realizing more than a billion dollars of savings a year as a result of BRAC 2005.

“That’s not an insignificant return on investment.”

Napoli and Cramer both said BRAC 2017 won’t have those three variables in play and that even greater cost savings and efficiencies could be realized.

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