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Military Base Realignments and Closures: The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's Technology Center Construction Project

GAO-12-770R Published: Jun 29, 2012. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 2012.
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What GAO Found

NGA modified the original scope of work for the Technology Center but met the original data-storage requirement. DOD has limited written guidance on what constitutes a complete and usable facility. However, NGA, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Army officials believe the Technology Center constitutes a complete and usable facility because it meets its intended purpose of creating 10 petabytes of data storage to replace the data-storage capabilities at the sites that were closed by the implementation of BRAC Recommendation 168. Although the construction of NGA’s new Technology Center was planned as part of the implementation of a BRAC recommendation to consolidate various NGA satellite locations at a new NGA facility, advances in data-storage technology led NGA to revise downward the space in the Technology Center that it would need to fit out to accommodate its data-storage needs. NGA also increased the electrical density in the new facility, even though the amount of space was reduced. As a result, NGA modified the original scope of work for the center during the course of the BRAC construction project, and one of the two floors of the new building originally planned for data storage was not fitted out. NGA officials told us that they believed completing both floors would have provided more data-storage capability than their identified requirements called for and therefore would have gone beyond the intent of the BRAC recommendation to consolidate existing capability. The original documentation of the requirements for the NGA construction project lacked some details such as the identification of the Technology Center as a primary or supporting facility, and there was a lack of clarity regarding which DOD organization should be responsible for oversight of this project. As a result, the original decision to change the scope of the project by not fitting out the third floor of the Technology Center was not communicated to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, to the project’s business manager—the Department of the Army—or to Congress. Therefore they were unable to participate in that decision. NGA did provide these officials with information regarding the decision at a later date.

Why GAO Did This Study

As part of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 2005 effort, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)—a defense agency—was required to close various satellite facilities and relocate them to a new NGA facility at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. This relocation included consolidating some data-storage capabilities into a data-storage center known as the Technology Center. DOD intended to use the BRAC 2005 process to transform the military, foster coordination among the services, and reduce excess infrastructure in order to produce savings. At the outset of BRAC 2005, DOD viewed BRAC 2005 as a unique opportunity to reshape its installations and realign its forces to meet defense needs for the next 20 years. This was the fifth round of base closures and realignments undertaken by DOD since 1988, and it was the biggest, most complex, and costliest BRAC round undertaken up to that point. To implement this round, DOD executed hundreds of BRAC actions that affected over 800 defense locations and included the planned relocation of over 123,000 personnel. By law, the BRAC 2005 recommendations were to be implemented by September 15, 2011, 6 years from the date on which the President submitted his base closure and realignment report to Congress. Under Recommendation 168 of the report of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, NGA was required to close some facilities and relocate them to a new NGA facility, now known as NGA Campus East. The 2005 BRAC Commission report noted that the onetime costs to implement this recommendation would be about $1.1 billion, but the actual cost rose to over $2.5 billion, because new requirements were added for supporting facilities that NGA identified as essential to mission operability.
Implementation of this recommendation to close and relocate some facilities to the new NGA Campus East resulted in NGA deciding to consolidate some data-storage and information-technology (IT) capabilities into a Technology Center to be built on the new campus. NGA officials told us that prior to the construction of this center, NGA had limited experience establishing or working with consolidated data-storage facilities. The Office of Management and Budget had not yet issued its recent guidance on data-center consolidation.5 NGA had IT equipment in many smaller rooms consisting of general office space, which NGA referred to as “computer rooms.” According to NGA officials, these computer rooms had been established gradually over time in older legacy NGA buildings although, in 2004, industry and NGA began moving toward more-efficient, single-use data-storage facilities known as data centers. The Technology Center was completed in 2009, before the rest of the NGA campus, to facilitate the transfer of data before personnel moved to the new campus. NGA had originally planned to construct and use the third and fourth floors of this four-story facility to meet its consolidated data-storage needs. However, it ultimately used only the fourth floor and therefore did not “fit out” the third floor.6 Nonetheless, the DOD budget request for Fiscal Year 2012 sought approximately $54.6 million in additional military construction funding for NGA to fit out the as-yet-unused third floor of the Technology Center to accommodate the need NGA identified to expand data-storage capability. This need for additional data-storage capability is unrelated to the BRAC consolidation. Consequently, in the conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012,7 the conferees expressed concern that the original BRAC military construction project may not have complied with the requirement that military construction projects include all construction work necessary to produce a complete and usable facility. The conference report directed GAO to examine this and related issues.
To help manage the large BRAC 2005 effort across DOD, the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics issued guidance in September 2005 that assigned business managers to be responsible for implementation of each BRAC 2005 recommendation. The assigned business managers were generally the service or defense agency with facility management authority at the site of construction. In the case of the NGA Campus East project, since the facility was to reside on part of Fort Belvoir—an Army site—the Department of the Army was assigned as business manager for the project. NGA was to be the only organization located on this campus and the primary user of the facility. In other instances, the assigned business manager was the primary user of the facility, rather than a military service. The September 2005 guidance also required business managers to develop and submit business plans for implementing the BRAC 2005 recommendations they were responsible for, including construction details. These business plans were internal DOD documents intended to help ensure that each plan’s respective BRAC 2005 recommendation was implemented efficiently and effectively.
For more information, contact Brian J. Lepore on (202) 512-4523 or by e-mail at

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ConstructionBase realignmentsMilitary constructionMilitary base closuresData centersDefense infrastructureBudgetsAppropriationsData storageMilitary forces