Defense Infrastructure:

Basing Uncertainties Necessitate Reevaluation of U.S. Construction Plans in South Korea

GAO-03-643: Published: Jul 15, 2003. Publicly Released: Jul 15, 2003.

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The U.S.-South Korean Land Partnership Plan (LPP), signed in March 2002, was designed to consolidate U.S. installations, improve combat readiness, enhance public safety, and strengthen the U.S.-South Korean alliance by addressing some of the causes of periodic tension associated with the U.S. presence in South Korea. The Senate report on military construction appropriations for fiscal year 2003 directed GAO to review the LPP. GAO adjusted its review to also address the effect of ongoing reassessments of U.S. overseas presence upon the LPP and other infrastructure needs. In this report, GAO assessed (1) the scope of the LPP, (2) the implications on the LPP and other construction projects of proposals to change basing in South Korea, and (3) implementation challenges associated with the LPP that could affect future U.S. military construction projects in South Korea.

Although broad in scope, the LPP was not designed to resolve all U.S. military infrastructure issues. Specifically, the plan was intended to resolve 49 of the 89 separate land disputes that were pending in South Korea. Of the land disputes the plan did not address, the most politically significant, complex, and expensive dispute involves the potential relocation of U.S. forces from Yongsan Army Garrison, located in the Seoul metropolitan area. As a result, the LPP, as approved, covered about 37 percent of the $5.6 billion in construction costs planned at U.S. military installations in South Korea over the next 10 years. Ongoing reassessments of U.S. overseas presence and basing requirements could diminish the need for and alter the locations of many construction projects in South Korea, both those associated with the LPP and those unrelated to it. For example, over $1 billion of ongoing and planned construction associated with improving military infrastructure at Yongsan Army Garrison and U.S. installations located north of Seoul--areas where there is uncertainty about future U.S. presence--has recently been put on hold, canceled, or redirected to an installation located south of Seoul. GAO identified some key challenges that could adversely affect the implementation of the LPP and future U.S. military construction projects throughout South Korea. First, the plan relies on various funding sources, including funding realized through land sales from property returned by the United States. The extent to which these sources of funding would be required and available for broader infrastructure changes is not yet clear. Second, a master plan would be needed to guide future military construction to reposition U.S. forces and basing in South Korea.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation and, based on its reassessment of construction projects, $1.3 billion of ongoing and planned construction in South Korea was put on hold, cancelled, or redirected.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require the Commander, U.S. Forces Korea, to reassess planned construction projects in South Korea as the results of ongoing studies associated with overseas presence and basing are finalized.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To respond to the requirements contained in the fiscal year 2004 Senate military construction appropriation bill report, OSD has annually issued master plans for changing its infrastructure overseas over the last two years. As part of the Pacific Command's annual master plans, the Commander, U.S. Forces Korea, has developed and included a detailed master plan for changing U.S. military facilities and bases in South Korea. The command has updated the plan periodically, as needed; identified funding requirements for constructing new facilities in South Korea; and provided estimated funding levels and responsibilities between the U.S. and South Korea governments for these new facilities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require the Commander, U.S. Forces Korea, to prepare a detailed South Korea-wide infrastructure master plan for the changing infrastructure for U.S. military facilities in South Korea, updating it periodically as needed, and identifying funding requirements and division of funding responsibilities between the United States and South Korea.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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