Military Bases:

Lessons Learned From Prior Base Closure Rounds

NSIAD-97-151: Published: Jul 25, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 25, 1997.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

David R. Warren
(202) 512-8412
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO reported on lessons learned from the base realignment and closure (BRAC) rounds held in 1988, 1991, 1993, and 1995, focusing on: (1) lessons related to savings, costs, and economic impact and improvements needed in the Department of Defense's (DOD) process for identifying bases for realignment and closure; and (2) what legislative actions would be needed if further BRAC rounds were to be authorized.

GAO noted that: (1) lessons have been learned from prior BRAC rounds that can be used to improve the BRAC process should future rounds be authorized; (2) these lessons relate to the amount of savings and up-front costs associated with closing bases and the economic impact on communities confronted with the loss of jobs; (3) data indicate that savings from base closures, though not well-documented, are expected to be substantial; (4) however, net savings from BRAC were not generated as quickly as initially estimated because the costs of closing bases and environmental cleanup were high and offset the savings; (5) firm data on expected savings have been difficult to obtain primarily because DOD accounting systems, like all accounting systems, track expenses and disbursements, not savings; (6) furthermore, DOD guidance does not require that the services' BRAC savings estimates be developed consistently, well-documented, or updated annually to reflect changes that occur during implementation; (7) also, large revenues initially expected to be generated from land sales have not occurred; (8) some cost avoidances are not fully captured in DOD's savings estimates because defense budget plans do not reflect future costs such as long-term recapitalization costs; (9) while defense civilian job loss and other adverse effects on communities are an inescapable byproduct of base closures, at least in the short term, recent studies indicate that, in a number of communities, the local economies appeared to be able to absorb the economic losses, though some communities are faring better than others; (10) however, in some cases, it is too soon to tell what the ultimate economic impact will be; (11) given the historical difficulty of closing bases, new legislation is needed if there are going to be future base closures; (12) DOD has proposed that Congress authorize two additional BRAC rounds; (13) the outcome of potential future BRAC rounds could be improved by resolving, in advance, key organizational and policy issues, such as which service or services will be responsible for which support functions and whether some facilities will be managed jointly; (14) the Office of the Secretary of Defense will have to exercise strong leadership to overcome the services' long-standing parochialism and inability to agree on significant cross-service consolidations in common support areas; and (15) the Secretary's Task Force on Defense Reform, as a follow-on effort to the Quadrennial Defense Review, could help address some of these key organizational and policy issues.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not been willing to authorize additional BRAC rounds.

    Matter: If Congress considers legislation for future BRAC rounds, it may wish to pass such legislation early to allow the lead time needed for DOD and the Commission to organize their processes.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not been willing to authorize additional BRAC rounds.

    Matter: If Congress considers legislation for future BRAC rounds, it may wish to model it on the 1990 BRAC legislation as a starting point.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not been willing to authorize additional BRAC rounds.

    Matter: If Congress considers legislation for future BRAC rounds, it may wish to consider the relationship between new BRAC authority and section 277 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996 pertaining to laboratories and test and evaluation facilities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress continues to refuse to authorize additional BRAC rounds.

    Recommendation: If Congress authorizes future BRAC rounds, the Secretary of Defense should ensure full audit access to all parts of DOD's BRAC process.

    Agency Affected: Congress

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: While DOD has agreed with GAO's recommendation, no action is possible at this time since Congress has not authorized any additional BRAC rounds.

    Recommendation: If Congress authorizes future BRAC rounds, the Secretary of Defense should use the current discount rate tied to the U.S. Treasury's borrowing rate to calculate the net present value of BRAC savings estimates.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress continues to refuse to authorize additional BRAC rounds.

    Recommendation: If Congress authorizes future BRAC rounds, the Secretary of Defense should convene a DOD joint working group, as soon as practical, to develop policy guidance, improve BRAC processes and decision-making tools, and ensure greater consistency among the services' processes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress continues to refuse to authorize additional BRAC rounds.

    Recommendation: If Congress authorizes future BRAC rounds, the Secretary of Defense should work with the Task Force on Defense Reform and the National Defense Panel to address, in advance of any future BRAC round, the important organizational and policy issues in the various cross-service areas discussed to facilitate the process of making further infrastructure reductions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated in mid-1998 that it was taking steps to improve management oversight of BRAC costs and savings. One of the steps requires that the Budget Justification of the Biennial Budget Estimates is updated for savings and replace prior-year estimated savings with actual savings, to the maximum extent possible. However, GAO's review of FY 1999 and FY2000 DOD budget submissions show that the services are not routinely updating savings. The services have no accounting systems in place to track savings.

    Recommendation: Whether or not Congress authorizes future BRAC rounds, DOD needs to improve its periodic updating and reporting of savings projected from prior BRAC decisions. This information is needed to strengthen DOD's budgeting process and ensure that correct assumptions are being made regarding expected reductions in base operating costs. Accordingly, the Secretary of Defense should provide guidance to ensure that its components have and follow a clear and consistent process for updating savings estimates associated with prior BRAC decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 30, 2014

Oct 16, 2014

Oct 10, 2014

Oct 8, 2014

Sep 30, 2014

Sep 25, 2014

Sep 23, 2014

Sep 19, 2014

Sep 18, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here