Military Base Realignments and Closures:

More Guidance and Information Needed to Take Advantage of Opportunities to Consolidate Training

GAO-16-45: Published: Feb 18, 2016. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 2016.

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What GAO Found

For each of the six recommendations GAO reviewed from the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, the Department of Defense (DOD) implemented the recommendations by requiring military services to relocate select training functions; however, GAO found that two of the six training functions reviewed were able to take advantage of the opportunity provided by BRAC to consolidate training so that services could train jointly. In implementing the remaining four BRAC recommendations, DOD relocated similar training functions run by separate military services into one location, but the services did not consolidate training functions. For example, they do not regularly coordinate or share information on their training goals and curriculums. DOD's justification for numerous 2005 BRAC recommendations included the assumption that realigning military department activities to one location would enhance jointness—defined by DOD as activities, operations, or organizations in which elements of two or more military departments participate. For these four training functions, DOD missed the opportunity to consolidate training to increase jointness, because it provided guidance to move personnel or construct buildings but not to measure progress toward consolidated training. Without additional guidance for consolidating training, the services will not be positioned to take advantage of such an opportunity in these types of recommendations as proposed by DOD and will face challenges encouraging joint training activities and collaboration across services.

DOD cannot determine if implementing the 2005 BRAC joint training recommendations that GAO reviewed has resulted in savings in operating costs. For three of the recommendations in this review, the services did not develop baseline operating costs before implementing the BRAC recommendations, which would have enabled it to determine whether savings were achieved. Without developing baseline cost data, DOD will be unable to estimate any cost savings resulting from similar recommendations in any future BRAC rounds. Further, costs reported to DOD by the training functions business plan managers for implementation of two of the six recommendations in this review likely did not include all BRAC-related costs funded from outside the BRAC account. A DOD memo requires BRAC business plan managers to submit all BRAC-related expenditures, including those funded from both inside and outside of the BRAC account. GAO identified at least $110 million in implementation costs that likely should have been reported to DOD in accordance with the memo but were not; therefore the $35.1 billion total cost reported for BRAC 2005 is likely somewhat understated. A DOD official stated that it was up to the military departments to ensure that all BRAC implementation costs were accounted for and that the military departments had the flexibility to determine which costs were associated with the BRAC recommendation and which were attributed to other actions. GAO found that this flexibility in determining which costs were to be reported as BRAC costs led to inconsistencies in what kinds of projects had their costs counted as BRAC implementation costs. By clarifying in guidance what is to be included as a BRAC implementation cost, DOD can help ensure that it has an accurate accounting of the final costs for any future BRAC implementation and that DOD and Congress are able to determine how much money is spent on any future BRAC rounds.

Why GAO Did This Study

The 2005 BRAC round was the fifth round of base closures and realignments undertaken by DOD since 1988, and it was the largest, most complex, and costliest. DOD has relied on the BRAC process to reduce excess infrastructure and realign bases to meet changing force structure needs. According to the Secretary of Defense, BRAC 2005 provided opportunities to foster jointness among the military services. House Report 113-446 included a provision for GAO to review the status of BRAC 2005 recommendations to reduce infrastructure and promote opportunities for jointness. This report evaluates the extent to which DOD has (1) implemented the recommendations requiring the services to relocate select training functions to increase opportunities for jointness and (2) determined if implementing these recommendations has achieved cost savings. GAO reviewed guidance, course listings, and cost data; interviewed DOD and service officials.

What GAO Recommends

To help improve the implementation of jointness-focused recommendations in any future BRAC rounds, GAO recommends that DOD provide additional guidance for consolidating training and reporting BRAC costs and require the development of baseline cost data. DOD partially concurred with the recommendation to clarify guidance for reporting BRAC costs but did not concur with the other recommendations, stating that GAO misunderstood its approach to joint training. GAO believes its findings and recommendations are valid and addresses these points in the report.

For more information, contact Brian J. Lepore at (202) 512-4523 or leporeb@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with our recommendation to provide guidance to the program managers of the training functions created under BRAC 2005 on consolidating training. First, DOD stated that we misunderstood the definition of joint training and that the services were constantly seeking ways to consolidate common training. Second, DOD stated in its comments that the proper entity to address the issues identified in our report would be the Interservice Training Review Organization. We recognize that there is a difference between joint and common training; however, these BRAC recommendations, which DOD proposed and the BRAC Commission approved, emphasized jointness, not just common training. For several of these recommendations, the Secretary of Defense's justification included "enhancing jointness" as part of the rationale, or proposed that the recommendation would allow DOD to "train as we fight; jointly." Further, in our report, we noted that the training functions had already been reviewed by the Interservice Training Review Organization and these reviews did not find much common or duplicated training between services to consolidate training. One of the purposes of several of these transformational recommendations was to create opportunities to enhance jointness, as stated by DOD in proposing them to the Commission. Enhancing jointness would be going a step further than colocating services and aspiring for services to consolidate training. In October 2019, DOD officials stated that it has policy mechanisms in place to take advantage/review better ways to conduct joint training. However, these were in place prior to our review and as of October 2019, no action has been taken on this recommendation to consolidate training.

    Recommendation: To make further progress toward taking full advantage of the opportunity of consolidating training in order to increase jointness following the implementation of the BRAC 2005 recommendations, for the training functions that did not consolidate training beyond colocation, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Secretaries of the military departments to provide guidance to the program managers on consolidating training, if DOD decides that taking advantage of an opportunity to increase jointness is still appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with our recommendation to develop and provide specific guidance for the military departments to use in implementing recommendations designed to consolidate training to increase jointness in the event of future BRAC rounds because the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness already had the authority to develop this guidance. We recognize that the Under Secretary has the authority to do this, but as our report points out, it has not exercised it in this instance. In October 2019, DOD officials stated that it has policy mechanisms in place to take advantage/review better ways to conduct joint training. However, these were in place prior to our review and as of October 2019, no action has been taken on this recommendation to consolidate training.

    Recommendation: To improve the ability of the military departments to take advantage of any opportunities provided by recommendations to develop joint training capabilities in a future BRAC round, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness--in consultation with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment--to develop and provide specific guidance for the military departments to use in implementing recommendations designed to consolidate training to increase jointness.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Although DOD did not initially concur with the recommendation, in October 2019, DOD officials agreed to take additional action to develop baseline cost data in the event of any consolidation of training resulting from a future BRAC round. Specifically, DOD identified that during implementation of a BRAC round, after a recommendation becomes a legal obligation, DOD will assess through the business plans any variances between original estimated costs and savings and actual costs and savings. As of April 2020, Congress has not authorized another round of BRAC. Nevertheless, by identifying original estimated costs and savings for future consolidation of training during a BRAC round, DOD has met the intention of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's ability to estimate savings, if any, from future consolidation of training--including any consolidation resulting from a future BRAC round--the Secretary of Defense should direct the military departments to develop baseline cost data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with the original recommendation when the report was issued. However, in an October 2019 memorandum, DOD agreed to implement all recommendation with which it had concurred or partially concurred should Congress authorize a future BRAC and provided that implementation of this specific recommendation would be permissible under the authorization; be consistent with the objectives of the BRAC and the National Defense Strategy; and not subvert the selection criteria. Further, DOD agreed to consider providing additional emphasis on accounting for BRAC costs. As of April 2020, Congress had not authorized another round of BRAC. Nevertheless, together, these actions meet the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the accounting of any future BRAC rounds, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment to issue guidance clarifying what costs should be included in final BRAC accounting.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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