Military Base Realignments and Closures:

Plan Needed to Monitor Challenges for Completing More Than 100 Armed Forces Reserve Centers

GAO-07-1040: Published: Sep 13, 2007. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 2007.

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The Army is implementing 44 base realignment and closure (BRAC) recommendations to construct 125 new Armed Forces Reserve Centers (AFRC) and close 387 existing reserve components facilities. The Department of Defense (DOD) expects the new AFRCs to increase recruiting and retention and create greater efficiencies by fostering jointness and consolidating functions. GAO (1) assessed the extent DOD's cost and savings estimates to implement the recommendations have changed from BRAC Commission projections and (2) determined the extent the Army has identified potential challenges that could affect BRAC implementation and has developed a plan to address these challenges. GAO analyzed DOD's publicly available BRAC budget data and interviewed officials at Army offices, including Reserve Command, National Guard Bureau, and the National Guard in five states. This report, prepared under the Comptroller General's authority to initiate evaluations, is one of a series related to the BRAC 2005 round.

Since the BRAC Commission issued its projections in 2005, DOD's cost estimates for implementing the reserve component recommendations have increased at the same time savings estimates have decreased. Implementation cost estimates increased from $2.9 billion to $3.2 billion--a 13 percent or $363 million increase in constant dollars--mostly due to higher military construction cost estimates. Annual recurring savings estimates decreased from $323 million to $288 million--an 11 percent decrease in constant dollars. However, GAO analysis suggests that these savings could be significantly less than currently estimated because over 90 percent of these savings are associated with eliminating positions currently held by military personnel without corresponding decreases in end strength in the force structure. GAO and the BRAC Commission have previously reported that military personnel eliminations are not a true source of savings because DOD does not expect to reduce end strength correspondingly but rather intends to reassign or shift these personnel to vacant positions in other areas. Although GAO agrees that transferring personnel to vacant positions may enhance capabilities and allows DOD to redirect freed-up resources to another area of need, GAO does not believe that such transfers produce a tangible dollar savings that DOD can apply to fund other defense priorities outside the military personnel accounts because these personnel will remain in the end strength--continuing to receive salaries and benefits. However, DOD's treatment of military personnel savings represents a long-standing difference of opinion between DOD and GAO. The Army has identified several potential challenges in implementing the 44 reserve component recommendations. These include completing many construction projects in a compressed time frame, realizing efficiencies based on limited testing of new military construction processes, potential increasing land and supporting infrastructure costs, and changing force structure and mission requirements that may affect facility capacity. The Army has started construction on 5 of the 125 AFRC projects, and the extent these challenges might occur remains uncertain until the Army receives and evaluates more AFRC construction proposals and more AFRCs are built. However, because the Army does not have a plan to routinely bring together the various key stakeholders involved in the construction of these facilities, including the state Army National Guard when appropriate, the extent the Army is able to monitor and quickly address potential challenges is unclear. Best practices suggest that involving stakeholders in planning can help create a clearer understanding among the stakeholders of competing demands, the limited resources available, and how those demands and resources require continuous balancing. Without a plan that brings together key stakeholders, it could be more difficult for the Army to monitor for implementation challenges and work through alternatives to mitigate them in a timely manner.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 2007, we recommended that the Army develop a plan for routinely bringing together various BRAC Army reserve component stakeholders as a group to monitor for implementation challenges and develop steps to mitigate the effects of potential challenges on BRAC completion time frames, project cost and scope, construction quality, and capacity of the facility to meet changing mission requirements. The Army BRAC Office has taken several steps over the last several years to implement the GAO recommendation. For example, the Army BRAC Office provided a BRAC program update to the Army Vice Chief of Staff in March 2009, with representation from the Army National Guard and Reserves, to identify issues needing the Vice Chief's attention and direction. In addition, the Army BRAC Division Reserve Component Branch, the Army Reserve Division, and the full-time Army National Guard and Army Reserve liaisons assigned to the Army BRAC office have collaborated on issues affecting Army's reserve components implementation of their BRAC recommendations. For example, at BRAC summits held in October 2009 and April 2010, various implementation issues were discussed with Army National Guard and Army Reserve Command. Furthermore, the Army BRAC Division Chief discusses implementation issues with BRAC stakeholders, including the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, on a monthly basis to quickly address any potential implementation concerns. As a result of these actions, the Army has met the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that BRAC 2005 recommendations affecting the Army's reserve components and interests of the states are effectively managed and any potential adverse effects are quickly identified, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to develop a plan for routinely bringing together the various stakeholders as a group, to include the state Army National Guard when appropriate, to monitor for and develop steps to mitigate implementation challenges should they occur. These steps should include ways to monitor and mitigate the effects of potential challenges on BRAC completion time frames, project cost and scope, construction quality, and capacity of the facility to meet changing mission requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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