Military Base Closures: Opportunities Exist to Improve Environmental Cleanup Cost Reporting and to Expedite Transfer of Unneeded Property

GAO-07-166 Published: Jan 30, 2007. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 2007.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights
Highlights

The cleanup of environmental contamination on unneeded property resulting from prior defense base realignment and closure (BRAC) rounds has been a key impediment to the transfer of these properties and could be an issue in the transfer and reuse of unneeded property resulting from the 2005 BRAC round. GAO's analysis of available data indicates that, when completed, the cleanup for the four prior BRAC rounds is expected to cost about $13.2 billion and additional costs will be needed for BRAC 2005 property. These costs reduce BRAC savings, especially in the short term. Because of broad congressional interest in BRAC, GAO prepared this report under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative. GAO's objectives were to examine costs to clean up 2005 BRAC properties, progress in transferring prior BRAC rounds properties to other users, and opportunities to expedite cleanups and transfers. To address these issues, GAO analyzed cleanup cost estimates, interviewed environmental officials and visited seven bases.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense In order to provide more complete and transparent cost information for the environmental cleanup of properties from all BRAC rounds, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) to report all costs (Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) and non-DERP)--past and future--required to complete environmental cleanup at each BRAC installation and to fully explain the scope and limitations of all the environmental cleanup costs DOD reports to Congress. This information should be included in the annual BRAC budget justification documentation since it would accompany information Congress considers when making resource allocation decisions.
Closed – Not Implemented
Although DOD concurred with our recommendation, it has not yet been implemented. In response to our report, DOD said they would implement the GAO recommendation to include the non-Defense Environmental Restoration Program by BRAC installation but that it would determine the proper vehicle for reporting such costs. Subsequently, DOD indicated that it would use the Defense Environmental Programs Annual Report to Congress to provide Congress all of the cleanup information on the DOD BRAC environmental programs by installation. However, in our reviews of this annual report, we still have not seen evidence that DOD is reporting to Congress enough of the cost data by installation to state that DOD is meeting the intent of our recommendation. Specifically, our review of the latest Defense Environmental Programs Annual Report to Congress does show tables by installation, both BRAC and non-BRAC, but these tables did not include the non-Defense Environmental Restoration Program costs, which was the same situation we found during the engagement.
Department of Defense In order to help ensure that the military services are taking full advantage of all tools available to clean up and transfer unneeded BRAC properties from the 2005 round, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) to require that the military services periodically report to the Office of the Secretary of Defense on the status and proposed strategy for transferring these properties and include an assessment of the usefulness of all tools at their disposal. This information should be placed in an easily shared location, such as a Web site, so that each service, and even the local communities and private sector, can share and benefit from lessons learned.
Closed – Implemented
DOD concurred with the recommendation and has subsequently taken action to substantially implement our recommendation within the last two years. Specifically, the DOD Inspector General (DOD/IG) received a written follow-up response on our recommendation indicating that the military departments are required to now report on the status of all excess real property to include the available acreages, and under which authority the land was transferred, conveyed, or otherwise disposed of. In June of 2011, we contacted the responsible OSD office and were provided sufficient evidence that all four of the military services are now (within the last two years) implementing our recommendation as intended. In addition, a DOD/IG written response of February 25, 2011 when they closed out the GAO recommendation stated that the Under Secretary of Defense (Installations & Environment) in concert with the Military Components, continually reviews the need for new authorities and changes to existing authorities. As a result, recent actions taken by DOD are now substantially implementing the GAO recommendation and such action is helping to ensure that the military services are taking full advantage of all tools available to clean up and transfer unneeded BRAC properties by providing excess real property data to OSD and by working with the military services to review effectiveness disposal authorities.

Full Report