May 23, 2005 | WebMemo on National Security and Defense
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 Challenges
Conference participants made the following general observations on issues and challenges facing National Guard and Reserve units during the BRAC process.
Problems in the Process
Major Themes for the BRAC Process to Consider
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.Federated 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 Strategy: Relationships 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 service.
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, Making the 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. 1716, " Guidelines for a Successful BRAC," all available at Heritage.org.
Jack 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.