Military Base Closures:

Better Planning Needed for Future Reserve Enclaves

GAO-03-723: Published: Jun 27, 2003. Publicly Released: Jun 27, 2003.

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While four previous base closure rounds have afforded the Department of Defense (DOD) the opportunity to divest itself of unneeded property, it has, at the same time, retained more than 350,000 acres and nearly 20 million square feet of facilities on enclaves at closed or realigned bases for use by the reserve components. In view of the upcoming 2005 base closure round, GAO undertook this review to ascertain if opportunities exist to improve the decision-making processes used to establish reserve enclaves. Specifically, GAO determined to what extent (1)specific infrastructure needs for reserve enclaves were identified as part of base realignment and closure decision making and (2) estimated costs to operate and maintain enclaves were considered in deriving net estimated savings for realigning or closing bases.

The specific infrastructure needed for many DOD reserve enclaves created under the previous base realignment and closure process was generally not identified until after a defense base closure commission had rendered its recommendations. While the Army generally decided it wanted much of the available training land for its enclaves before the time of the commission's decision making during the 1995 closure round, time constraints precluded the Army from fully identifying specific training acreages and facilities until later. Subsequently, in some instances the Army created enclaves that were nearly as large as the bases that were being closed. In contrast, the infrastructure needed for Air Force reserve enclaves was more defined during the decision-making process. Moreover, DOD's enclave-planning processes generally did not include a cross-service analysis of military activities that may have benefited by their inclusion in a nearby enclave. The Army did not include estimated costs to operate and maintain its reserve enclaves in deriving net estimated base realignment or closure savings during the decision-making process, but the Air Force apparently did so in forming its enclaves. GAO's analysis showed that the Army overestimated savings and underestimated the time required to recoup initial investment costs to either realign or close those bases with proposed enclaves. However, these original cost omissions have not materially affected DOD's recent estimate of $6.6 billion in annual recurring savings from the previous closure rounds because the Army subsequently updated its estimates in its budget submissions to reflect expected enclave costs.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: As part of the new base realignment and closure round scheduled for 2005, the Secretary of Defense should establish provisions to ensure that data provided to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission clearly specify the infrastructure (e.g., acreage and total square footage of facilities) needed for any proposed reserve enclaves.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation and recognized the need for improved planning for reserve enclaves as part of BRAC decision making. In planning for the 2005 BRAC round DOD created a joint action process team to estimate the cost of base realignment actions. In May 2004, this team issued a new users manual (COBRA manual) that required the services, in planning for the 2005 round, to identify the facility requirements(e.g., square footage), as well as the costs to sustain and recapitalize any reserve enclaves that may be created as a result of the BRAC 2005 recommendations. The services subsequently provided such data for proposed enclaves in the DOD submissions to the BRAC Commission. This action was precipitated by the GAO report and satisfies the recommended language.

    Recommendation: As part of the new base realignment and closure round scheduled for 2005, the Secretary of Defense should establish provisions to ensure that data provided to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission clearly specify the estimated costs to operate and maintain proposed reserve enclaves.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation and recognized the need for improved planning for reserve enclaves as part of BRAC decision making. In planning for the 2005 BRAC round, DOD created a joint action process team to estimate the cost of base realignment actions. In May 2004, this team issued a new users manual (COBRA manual) that required the services, in planning for the 2005 round, to identify the facility requirements(e.g., square footage), as well as the costs to sustain and recapitalize any reserve enclaves that may be created as a result of the BRAC 2005 recommendations. The services subsequently provided such data for proposed enclaves in the DOD submissions to the BRAC Commission. This action was precipitated by the GAO report and satisfies the recommended language.

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