Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is
one of the most important-and controversial-issues affecting
military transformation. U.S. basing infrastructure must be
recalibrated to reflect America's forever changing national
security requirements. In the wake of the release of the May 13
BRAC list, many observers wondered how realignment and closures
will affect important military assets outside of the active duty
component. At a recent conference hosted by The Heritage Foundation
and the Minuteman Institute for National Defense Studies, experts
considered the potential ramifications of the latest round of BRAC
on the National Guard.
General Observations and
Conference participants made the
following general observations on issues and challenges facing
National Guard and Reserve units during the BRAC
By law, BRAC is not used to eliminate
units but to move units to other locations. The public perception
that units will disappear is not correct. BRAC is about maximizing
the national security value of available assets.
Savings in BRAC come mostly from
releasing civilian workers and correspondingly cutting back on
operations expenses, maintenance, and similar areas-but not by
eliminating military assets. While these savings may be
economically painful to local communities, they support the goal of
redistribution of assets to better meet Department of Defense
Services can use BRAC to reorganize
assets more quickly than would otherwise be possible, without
bureaucracy as a major impediment. The Air Force, for example, can
increase efficiency through the BRAC process by consolidating
multiple units of similar aircraft or moving active components into
the Reserve Component.
Problems in the Process
Using the same criteria to evaluate
National Guard facilities as active duty bases is like comparing
apples and oranges. Some National Guard units had difficulty
answering BRAC's "data call" because BRAC information gathering
mechanisms were designed for active duty bases. In addition, other
factors-such as secrecy surrounding the BRAC information gathering
process and the large numbers of facilities for which State
Adjutant Generals are responsible (Kansas's Adjutant General, for
example, is responsible for more than 60 armories and
installations)-may impact National Guard participation in BRAC
The specter of legal action over whether
BRAC can close National Guard facilities without the approval of
their states' governors may cause difficulty for the BRAC
BRAC is about transformation, but with
an increasing focus on "jointness," services must be sure to
communicate amongst themselves during the BRAC process. In the
past, some bases hosting multiple services have been closed or
realigned without informing all the services operating at them.
This can cause a major disconnect in operations.
Major Themes for the BRAC Process to
Integration: This should be the dominant idea in
national security. The National Guard is critical in both the
vertical and horizontal chains of command and can be considered the
"connective tissue" of the national security fabric.
Responsibilities: In a
recent speech to the nation's governors, President George W. Bush
addressed his audience as his "fellow commanders-in-chief."
Pentagon planning, however, does not reflect any deep understanding
of this relationship. This understanding is important in the
intersection-and the potential conflicts- that commanders who find
themselves responsible for both Title 10 (active duty) and Title 32
(Guard/Reserve) missions may face.
Regional Perspectives: The state-by-state approach is not
necessarily the best one. Using the Guard as regional responders-an
idea prominent among National Guard planners-may better maximize
the Guard's military value to the nation. Some experts suggest that
NORTHCOM could shrink its own operations and devolve control to
eight regional commands, under National Guard commanders who could
leverage their personal relationships with governors and local
knowledge of resources, geography, and infrastructure.
Social Dimension of
with local communities are important for all military bases, but
they are especially so for the National Guard. Service members are
also members of the community, in some cases for many decades.
Simply closing an armory may save money, but doing so further
dissociates the military from the community and can create a vacuum
in public consciousness. It is important that the public retain a
sense of connectedness to "their" military members and their
While war fighting and efficiency
concerns must drive the BRAC process, local concerns must also be
considered to ensure a truly successful BRAC.
For more information on Base Realignment
and Closure (BRAC), see Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 703,
2005 BRAC a Success , Executive Memorandum
No. 953, "Defense
Priorities for the Next Four Years," WebMemo
No. 507, "BRAC
Must Not Be Delayed," and Backgrounder No.
Guidelines for a Successful BRAC," all available at
Spencer is Senior Policy
Analyst for Defense and National Security in the Kathryn and Shelby
Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage
Foundation. Kathy Gudgel, Research Assistant in Defense and
National Security, contributed to this piece. This paper is based on
presentations given at "Base Realignment and Closure: National
Guard and Hometown Implications" on May 10, 2005, at the National
Guard Memorial Building.