Military Bases:

Status of Prior Base Realignment and Closure Rounds

NSIAD-99-36: Published: Dec 11, 1998. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the Department of Defense's (DOD) progress in completing action on military base realignments and closures (BRAC) recommendations and transferring unneeded base property to other users; (2) the precision of DOD's estimates of BRAC costs and savings; (3) environmental cleanup progress and estimated associated costs; and (4) reported trends in economic recovery in communities affected by base closures.

GAO noted that: (1) by September 30, 1998, DOD had completed actions on about 85 percent of the four BRAC commissions' 451 recommendations; (2) in taking actions on the recommendations, DOD declared about 464,000 acres of base property as excess; (3) as of September 30, 1997, 46 percent of the unneeded BRAC property was to be retained by the federal government, 33 percent was slated for nonfederal users, and the disposition of 21 percent had not yet been decided; (4) 8 percent of the property slated for federal use has been transferred, while 31 percent of the property slated for nonfederal use has been transferred; (5) DOD officials noted a number of obstacles that must be overcome before transfer can occur; (6) by 2001, DOD estimates it will have spent $23 billion on BRAC and saved $37 billion in costs it would have incurred if BRAC actions had not occurred, for a net savings of $14 billion; (7) beyond 2001, when the last of the four rounds is complete, DOD expects to save $5.7 billion annually as a result of BRAC actions; (8) however, the cost estimates exclude certain types of federally incurred costs, some of which are funded outside of DOD BRAC budget accounts, while the savings estimates have not been routinely updated and thus are not precise; (9) a major cost factor in BRAC actions, as well as a major obstacle to the disposal of unneeded property, is the need for environmental cleanup at BRAC bases; (10) both the eventual cost and the completion date for the BRAC-related environmental program are uncertain; (11) however, available DOD data indicate that the total environmental cost will likely exceed $9 billion and that cleanup activities will extend well beyond 2001; (12) the potential for higher costs exists, given uncertainties associated with the extent of cleanup of unexploded ordnance and monitoring of cleanup remedies needed at selected sites; (13) DOD has made progress since the earlier BRAC years when it was investigating sites for contamination; and (14) the majority of communities surrounding closed bases are faring well economically in relation to the national average, according to the latest data available at the time of GAO's analysis, and show some improvement since the time closures were beginning in 1988.

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