Defense Infrastructure:

High-Level Leadership Needed to Help Communities Address Challenges Caused by DOD-Related Growth

GAO-08-665: Published: Jun 17, 2008. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 2008.

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Due to several simultaneous Department of Defense (DOD) force structure and basing initiatives, 20 installations are expecting a combined net growth of over 173,000 military and civilian personnel, not including family members and all contractors, over fiscal years 2006-2012. Although communities surrounding these installations can expect to realize economic benefits in the long term, DOD has identified these 20 to be substantially and seriously impacted in terms of being able to provide infrastructure to accommodate the growth. In response to the House report to the fiscal year 2007 defense appropriations bill, GAO (1) examined the extent to which communities affected by DOD's actions have identified their infrastructure needs, and (2) assessed DOD's efforts and those of other agencies to assist affected communities. GAO reviewed applicable directives and executive orders, surveyed the 20 growth communities, and met with community and agency officials to discuss growth issues.

Communities surrounding DOD growth installations have begun to identify infrastructure needs to help support expected personnel growth in general terms, but planning efforts have been hampered by a lack of consistent and detailed information about anticipated DOD personnel movements. When asked to identify their top infrastructure challenges, 16 of the 20 communities identified by DOD as substantially and seriously impacted cited transportation, 11 named school capacity, and 6 said affordable housing. However, communities lack the detailed planning information, such as the growth population demographics, necessary to effectively plan and obtain financing for infrastructure projects. A DOD directive requires the military services to develop guidance for providing planning information to installations, communities, and DOD's Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), but GAO found that none had done so. While the consistency of the personnel relocation data DOD provides has improved, over half of the communities we surveyed expressed concerns about the completeness of the personnel data they receive and the lack of detailed demographic data, such as the number and ages of dependent children expected to accompany incoming service members and attend school. Until the military departments begin to disseminate consistent and more detailed information about planned defense personnel moves, it will be difficult for community, state, and federal officials to effectively plan for and provide necessary infrastructure to accommodate DOD personnel and their families relocating to growth-impacted communities. OEA, other DOD agencies, and some state, local, and federal agencies have provided grants and technical assistance to DOD growth communities, but the Office of the Secretary of Defense has not provided the high-level leadership critical to achieving effective interagency and intergovernmental coordination. To ensure that DOD-impacted communities receive assistance, the 22-agency Economic Adjustment Committee (EAC) was created by executive order over 30 years ago and amended as recently as 2005. The Secretary of Defense, or his designee, chairs the committee that is required to lead efforts to assist communities most affected by its activities and serve as a clearinghouse for sharing information about expected DOD impacts on the communities surrounding military growth installations, as well as information regarding possible government resources that could mitigate some of those impacts. As chair of the EAC, DOD could regularly convene full committee meetings and exercise the high-level leadership needed to help ensure that federal agencies are affording certain priority considerations to defense-affected communities. However, the full committee has not met since November 2006. Instead, DOD has left the workings of the EAC to OEA, which has been proactive in assisting impacted communities but can not guide interagency operations at a high enough level to promote effective interagency cooperation. Consequently, in the absence of high-level DOD leadership, the committee has not developed a clearinghouse for information sharing which could more effectively match government resources with the needs of DOD-impacted communities.

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: In order to assist communities in planning to provide the infrastructure necessary to support defense-related growth and to ensure quality of life for members of the armed forces, their families, and other members of surrounding communities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the military services and the Commandant of the Marine Corps to develop and implement guidance, no later than the end of fiscal year 2008, that is consistent with DOD Directive 5410.12 for the timely, complete, and consistent dissemination of DOD planning information such as estimated timelines and numbers of personnel relocating, as well as demographic data such as numbers of school-aged children, and to update this information quarterly.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the DOD/IG, the DoD will continue to work with the cognizant DoD components to ensure consistent compliance with DoD Directive 5410.12. The information derived through this effort should be available to all Federal, state, and local interests who need to work with the same set of facts in responding to mission growth. The DoD is establishing a clearinghouse to provide this information as referenced in Recommendation 2 of this report. Not all data for this clearinghouse is conducive to quarterly updates because they may burden rather than assist a locale. Therefore, a responsive clearinghouse should have flexibility in periodic updating of information. The Military Services and Defense Logistics Agency have issued guidance and are now carrying out DoD Directive 5410.12. As of 2011, the DoD posts information to support local economic statistics and environmental condition reports to www.EAClearinghouse.gov. Local installations provide military personnel migration data directly to the affected communities rather than posting aggregate data online due to operational security concerns.This response meed the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: In order to better coordinate and leverage federal resources to assist communities affected by DOD activities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to implement Executive Order 12788 by holding regular meetings of the full executive-level EAC and by serving as a clearinghouse of information for identifying expected community impacts and problems as well as identifying existing resources for providing economic assistance to communities affected by DOD activities. This clearinghouse would provide a centralized source for information from all military services regarding personnel planning information, as well as information regarding any resources available at the federal, state, local, and private-sector levels that can help address potential infrastructure gaps at the affected communities. In addition, this information should be updated at least quarterly and made easily available to all interested stakeholders at the local, state, and federal levels.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Senior Leadership is engaged with the EAC and the EAC has held several meetings. The www.EACClearinghouse.gov web site launched in December 2009 with information pertaining to local and economic and community needs. The DoD posts updates continually, as data becomes available. Although these actions will be ongoing until personnel migration actions are complete in 2013, the DoD demonstrated compliance with the intent of the GAO recommendation through meetings and actions to date.

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