Office of the Secretary of Defense has released proposed selection
criteria to guide the next round of Base Realignment and Closure
(BRAC). This marks
the beginning of the fifth round of base closings since 1988 and
should be the last comprehensive realignment needed for some
Realignment and closure decisions are not
made arbitrarily. The Pentagon, Congress, and the BRAC commission
adhere to a predetermined set of criteria to guide them through the
process. The Pentagon released its criteria in accordance with
current BRAC legislation, which mandated their publication by
December 31, 2003. Their appearance in the Federal Register on
December 23 marks the beginning of the public comment period, which
ends on January 28, 2004. The Pentagon must release its final
criteria by February 16, 2004.
While many of the criteria are similar to
those of past BRAC rounds, some have been updated to reflect new
Pentagon objectives. These new criteria, along with the guidelines
outlined in this paper, will be critical to a process that produces
the maximum savings and efficiency for the taxpayer.
successful BRAC is essential to the Pentagon's modernization plans
because it will not only rid the Department of Defense of excess
infrastructure and free resources, but also ensure that the
remaining infrastructure is appropriate for a 21st century
military. Poor BRAC decisions could lead to an inadequate
infrastructure that, although it may generate savings, neither
supports the current force nor prepares the armed forces for future
While military value was always at the
forefront of realignment decisions and must remain so, the savings
potential was a driving factor in the past. Indeed, monetary
interests have largely defined the success of previous BRAC rounds.
Although saving money through efficiency re-mains important, this
round has much higher stakes. If intelligently executed, BRAC can
help to ensure a successful long-term defense transformation.
2005 round will be the culmination of a three-decade pursuit to
achieve balance between the military force and the infrastructure
required to support it. The Department of Defense has already gone
through four rounds of BRAC and is currently enjoying the fruits of
that laborious process.
previous four rounds have saved a total of roughly $17 billion and
are now saving about $3 billion annually. Despite this, the 2005
round was one of the most difficult to secure. After contentious,
yet successful, rounds in 1988, 1991, 1993, and 1995, the movement
to begin a fifth round began in 1997. A fifth round was not secured
until Congress passed the 2003 Defense Authorization Act, which
amended the original Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of
According to past criteria, judgments were
supposed to be based on military value, return on investment, and
impacts on the environment and local economy. The legislation for
BRAC 2005 recommends that similar criteria be maintained. However,
while these criteria are necessary to help the principals decide
what to consider when making realignment and closure decisions,
they did not advance a broader strategic vision. The new criteria
do, and that is why it is important that they be finalized.
Pentagon is currently attempting to transform the armed forces from
an industrial-age military built for the Cold War to a digital-age
force prepared to respond to the emerging threats of the 21st
century. BRAC 2005 is important to this transformation in two
First, the savings generated by BRAC can
be reinvested into the force.
Second, a transformed force will require a
While the criteria will ensure that
military, economic, and environmental value will all be considered,
a broader set of guidelines that work hand in hand with the
criteria would guide the process toward achieving the Pentagon's
transformation objective and minimize external political pressure,
which often does not reflect the interests of the nation. The final
selection criteria should reflect the following five
#1. Basing infrastructure should encourage and facilitate
joint operations, training, and overall cooperation among the
#2. Realignment decisions must consider present and future
#3. BRAC should be a global exercise.
#4. No base should be left off the table.
#5. Realignment and closure decisions should minimize
excess infrastructure and increase efficiency.
a set of principled, strategic guidelines would provide
policymakers with an objective metric by which to direct the
overall BRAC process. This is essential for a number of
First, one of the primary obstacles to
BRAC's achievement of maximum effectiveness is politics. Following
principled guidelines can help to minimize decisions that are based
more on a facility's value to a politician's reelection campaign
than its value to national security.
Furthermore, these guidelines would funnel
closure and realignment decisions toward achieving the larger
objective of force transformation. Guidelines intended to save
money and achieve efficiency will likely be quite different from
guidelines designed to advance transformation.
A Brief History of BRAC
effort to close down excess military infrastructure has been going
on for decades.
Indeed, in the 1960s, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara headed
an effort to close bases, and the end of the Vietnam War led to
another round of closures in the early 1970s. Although these
efforts achieved the goal of reducing excess infrastructure, they
were plagued by accusations that the executive branch was using the
closings to punish foes in Congress. Congress responded by creating
a series of legislative obstacles that prohibited the Pentagon from
closing bases without the consent of Congress.
the mid-1980s, the Department of Defense was once again burdened
with excess infrastructure. In an effort to address the issue,
Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) requested that Secretary of Defense
Caspar Weinberger identify a series of bases that could be closed.
Although no action resulted from Secretary Weinberger's list, this
effort gave rise to the Defense Authorization Amendments and Base
Realignment and Closure Act of 1988, which formed the first BRAC commission
and laid the groundwork for future commissions.
next three rounds of BRAC were a direct result of the end of the
Cold War. Then-Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney recognized the
need for significant reductions in base infrastructure and led the
effort to obtain congressional approval for additional reductions.
Congress passed the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of
1990. This act addressed the shortcomings and criticisms of the
1988 round and provided the model for BRACs in 1991, 1993, and
1995, which have all been completed.
push for the 2005 round of BRAC began in earnest in1998 with the
publication of The Report of the Department of Defense on Base
Realignment and Closure, which stated that the Pentagon still
maintained an excess base capacity of nearly 25 percent.
BRAC is a Requirement for Defense
transformation debate often focuses on military platforms,
investments, and operational concepts. All of these things are
important; wrong decisions on any of these fronts would create
major obstacles. However, before transformation can fully succeed,
the Pentagon must maximize its scarce resources and create an
environment that invites and supports change, which is why BRAC is
Another round of BRAC will not only
relieve the Pentagon of excess infrastructure, generating savings
that can be reinvested into the force, but also could advance
longer-term institutional objectives, such as transformation.
Relying on an infrastructure meant to support a Cold War force will
perpetuate the status quo. Alternatively, changing the military
basing system to reflect the strategic and technological realities
of the 21st century will help the rest of the Department of Defense
to make similar changes.
Guidelines for a Successful BRAC
primary objective of BRAC 2005 should be to facilitate long-term
defense transformation while ensuring that today's force can
operate effectively and efficiently. While savings have been the
result of most BRAC realignment decisions, monetary judgments
should not drive BRAC 2005. Likewise, every effort must be made to
minimize the impact of parochial political concerns.
following guidelines will help to ensure that the process advances
transformation, pursues--but is not driven by--monetary saving, and
Basing infrastructure should encourage and facilitate joint
operations, training, and overall cooperation among the
Perhaps the most critical element of
defense transformation is the continued effort to achieve greater
cooperation, or jointness, among the services. Restructuring the
Department of Defense's support infrastructure, in much the same
way the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 restructured the Pentagon
bureaucracy, can compel the services to work together more
of the ways to advance this cause is to create a basing
infrastructure that puts a premium on joint operations and
Realignment decisions must consider present and future encroachment
Growing populations and regulations are
en-croaching on many of America's bases, and the result has been
reduced training opportunities for the armed forces and a negative
effect on readiness. This is inconsistent with the requirements of
transformation, which will necessitate more training opportunities,
Throughout the country, lawsuits continue
to be filed against the armed forces, arguing that noise and other
nuisances associated with military activity are having a
detrimental affect on surrounding residential areas. As the population has
grown--displacing plant and animal life, making them more dependent
on military land for habitat--environmental regulations have begun
to interfere with the armed forces' day-to-day operations.
Installations around the nation, such as California's Camp
Pendleton and Fort Irwin, have already been forced to curtail their
activities significantly in deference to environmental
the BRAC process moves forward, it should put a high priority on
bases that are only minimally affected by surrounding populations
and unlikely to be adversely affected in the future.
BRAC should be a global exercise.
A successful BRAC should not limit its scope
to bases on U.S. territory. The United States is a global power and
requires a global basing infrastructure. However, the United States
still maintains an extensive basing system in Western Europe that
reflects the static security environment of the Cold War rather
then the unpredictable world of the 21st century. Similarly, many
American facilities abroad are not conducive either to the type of
expeditionary warfare that the nation is most likely to engage in
future conflicts or to the force structure that will likely emerge
Furthermore, because the United States
depends so heavily on its bases abroad, it must evaluate which
bases may be more politically vulnerable. This will allow the
Pentagon to ensure that it maintains adequate domestic
infrastructure to support those forces if they are compelled to
leave. Likewise, if the United States is relatively sure that a
host nation will not ask its forces to leave, there is little need
to maintain excess infrastructure stateside to support those
Ultimately, facilities abroad and at home
should not be artificially separated. They are all integral
elements of the armed forces support infrastructure and should be
viewed as parts of the same whole.
Guideline #4: No
base should be left off the table.
method of protecting the political interests of elected officials
in the past has been to remove certain facilities from even being
considered for closure or realignment. While this may be in the
near-term interests of some politicians, it is not in the long-term
interests of the nation. Indeed, if those politicians would work on
putting the land to some other productive use instead of protecting
it from BRAC, they might even find that their political interests
are best served by regaining control of some facilities from the
Guaranteeing that every facility is
subject to BRAC will have a number of positive outcomes.
First, it protects the integrity of the
process by ensuring fairness. It is no secret that those with the
most political power would have the best chance of taking their
bases off the table. This opens the entire process up to legitimate
criticism of being overpoliticized.
Second, it increases the likelihood that
those bases with the greatest military value will be sustained. If
a base has great military value, it will not be closed and
therefore does not require special protections. On the other hand,
politicians may seek special protections for those bases that they
view as politically beneficial but that are of dubious military
Finally, keeping all bases open to BRAC
scrutiny protects politicians. It makes BRAC easier for them to
support by detaching them further from the process of deciding
which bases stay and which go.
Realignment and closure decisions should minimize excess
infrastructure and increase efficiency.
Today, maintaining an excess base
infrastructure of roughly 25 percent is draining much-needed
resources. Although saving money and creating efficiency should not
drive the BRAC process, it should play a role. Indeed, a
characteristic of a transformed force is that it also is much more
maximize efficiency on the battlefield, the Pentagon must begin
with efficiency in its support structures. This efficiency will
help the Department of Defense to achieve the rapid deployment
capabilities that it seeks and also build in the flexibility needed
to respond to threats as they emerge in the future.
However, efficiency must not supersede
military value. Part of the value that bases add to the force is
providing surge capacity if the nation ever requires a large
increase in military capabilities due to a rapid change in the
security environment. Nevertheless, the requirement for surge
capacity should not be used as an indiscriminate excuse not to
close a particular base. It is simply a factor that should be
considered in the BRAC process.
wholesale transformation of the armed forces is neither required
nor desirable. Any initiative that attempted to do so would likely
lead to large-scale opposition and, ultimately, failure.
Therefore, an important step toward
building the force of the future is to create an environment that
invites change. The focus should be on creating a system, support
structure, and bureaucracy that facilitates transformation. An
intelligently executed BRAC 2005 will help to achieve this by
creating a solid foundation on which to build the future force, and
it will free the resources necessary to reinvest in the force of
today and tomorrow.
is Senior Policy Analyst for Defense and National Security in the
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies
at The Heritage Foundation.