A Base Realignment and Closure in 2017?

Today’s blog post is from the Honorable Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment (ASA IE&E).

As the Army reduces and reorganizes over the next five to seven years, it must gauge the current and future installation capacity that will be required for a ready and resilient Army.

The Army, under the direction of Paul Cramer, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Housing and Partnerships, has begun conducting a facility capacity analysis to determine how much excess capacity will be available at the enterprise level, as the Army decrements its end strength.

Hammack, Katherine

Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment (ASA IE&E)

The analysis of real property is to support an end-strength of 490,000 Active Component (AC) Soldiers (and the accompanying force structure).

Preliminary results indicate that inside the United States, the Army excess capacity ranges between 12 and 28 percent, depending on facility category group, with an average of approximately 18 percent.  This excess capacity totals over 167 million square feet of facilities spread across our installations.

Our estimates are that it costs about $3 per square foot to maintain occupied and/or underutilized facilities, which could cost the Army over $500 million a year in unnecessary operations and maintenance.

For some facility category types, such as small unit headquarters facilities (for example Company Operations Facilities), the Army has facility shortfalls.  We are reviewing our requirements with an eye towards finding practical, efficient solutions that meet Soldier needs and which we as an Army can afford.

Additional excess capacity will be created if the AC shrinks further, below 490,000, necessitating incremental facility capacity analyses.

We are working also to confirm our excess capacity overseas; our current focus is in the European area of responsibility.

A year ago, the Secretary of Defense directed the conduct of a European Infrastructure Consolidation (EIC) review for the specific purpose of reducing “expenses by eliminating excess capacity in Europe while ensuring our remaining base structure supports our operational requirements and strategic needs.”

A team led by Mark Rocke, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Strategic Integration is fully engaged in the conduct of this review.  We are employing the principles of capacity and military value analysis, developed originally for Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), to guide our work.

Our target date to complete the DoD and Army analysis and evaluation is Spring 2014.  Current Army Capacity Analysis reflects 10 to 15 percent of excess capacity in Europe.

The Army has been downsizing our footprint in both Europe and Asia for many years in the post-Cold War era.  Since 2006, Army end strength in Europe has declined 45 percent, and we are on track to shrink the supporting infrastructure, overhead, and operating budgets by over 50 percent.  Similarly in Korea, the Army decreased the number of Soldiers by about a third (10,000 Soldiers) and is on pace to shrink our acreage and site footprint by about half.

Overseas, the Army has the tools and authorities we need to identify and reduce excess capacity.  Inside the United States, however, the best and proven way to address excess and shortfalls in facility requirements in a cost-effective and fair manner is through the BRAC Commission process.

The Army continues to need additional BRAC authorization to reduce excess infrastructure effectively.  As the Army’s end strength and force structure decline alongside its available funding, hundreds of millions of dollars will be wasted maintaining underutilized buildings and infrastructure.  Trying to spread a smaller budget over the same number of installations and facilities will inevitably result in rapid decline in the overall condition of Army facilities.

Without a future round of BRAC, the Army will be constrained in closing or realigning installations to reduce overhead.  This “empty space tax” on our warfighters will simply result in cuts to capabilities elsewhere in the budget.

The President’s request to authorize another round of BRAC is fully supported by the Army.  The Army has the authority to close and realign U.S. installations outside the BRAC process as long as the Congressional notification thresholds detailed in 10 USC §2687 are not triggered.  Historically, however, the Army and Congress together have concluded that using non-BRAC authority to address excess infrastructure is not as transparent or economically advantageous to local communities.

In total, the Army has disposed of almost 224,000 acres (75 percent of the total acreage disposal requirement of 297,000 acres), from prior BRAC rounds with approximately 73,000 acres (25 percent) remaining.  The current goal is for all remaining excess property to be conveyed by 2021.  Placing this property into productive reuse helps communities rebuild the local tax base, generate revenue, and, most importantly, replace lost jobs.

Community Benefits

BRAC-impacted communities have leveraged planning grants and technical assistance from the DoD Office of Economic Assistance (OEA), as well as BRAC property disposal authorities, to adjust in ways that are often not possible outside the BRAC process.

The Newport Chemical Depot in Vermillion County, Indiana was closed during the BRAC 2005 round, and successfully completed the property transfer process for 7,236 acres in a relatively short period of time.  This allowed the surrounding rural community to remain focused on redevelopment, and reduced the Army’s caretaker costs.  In 2013, Scott Pet Products, Inc., a pet supply manufacturer, opened a 50,000-square foot manufacturing and distribution facility on this closed installation, and plans to expand there, which will create new jobs.  Newport Pallet Inc. moved into an 80,000-square foot building at the site in 2010, and the General Machine and Saw Company announced plans in February 2013 to move into facilities at the re designated Vermillion Rise Mega Park.

At Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, another BRAC 2005 closure site, the Army has started transferring property to return it to productive re-use.  Construction crews are progressing ahead of schedule on a new 275,000-square foot facility to expand the capacity of the software data storage firm, CommVault.  This is the first of several planned expansions by CommVault, with the potential to create over 1,500 jobs.  The Army successfully transferred the old Paterson Army Health Clinic parcel in September 2013.  The Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) will sell it to a healthcare provider (AcuteCare).  Locally-stated plans will create up to 200 new jobs, invest approximately $15 million in renovations, and will enable the LRA to avoid about $1 million in planned demolition expenses.

The Army BRAC team, lead by IE&E and ACSIM, will have the dual mission of ensuring mission effectiveness while reducing operating costs.  We know that transforming the U.S. military into a more efficient, more effective and more adaptable operation is a large task.  Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told lawmakers “ A new round of base closures would focus on saving money and likely would cost about $6 billion.  We’ll save $2 billion a year in perpetuity, and if we don’t do that, we’re basically wasting $2 billion a year” Hale said.

I am confident that, once authorized by Congress, BRAC 2017 will be a success.

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A Base Realignment and Closure in 2017?