July 18, 2005 | WebMemo on National Security and Defense

BRAC Wars, Episode Three

One of the most important issues in military transformation today is Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). The U.S. global basing infrastructure, including both its domestic and foreign components, must be recalibrated to reflect America's changing and unpredictable national security requirements. President George W. Bush has initiated a new round of BRAC designed to eliminate excess basing infrastructure and free up resources that can be reinvested into the Pentagon's critical transformation initiatives. At a recent event co-hosted by The Heritage Foundation and the Minuteman Institute for National Defense Studies, experts examined the issues surrounding the 2005 round of BRAC, specifically those that concern the National Guard and the states.

The National Security Framework

Since 9/11, planners have recognized several new truths about national security: homeland security is an important and growing component; the Pentagon neither can nor should provide all elements of security; many other agencies-beyond the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-must contribute; and terrorism is not just a law enforcement problem, but also a "war" problem.

These conditions give rise to an important question with ramifications for national security structure and the relationship between the active and reserve component: "Who is responsible for what, domestically and internationally?" The inability to clearly answer this question in an environment of rapidly increasing operational tempo and BRAC decisions contributes to the frustration felt by commanders. One solution might be to institute a National Defense Panel or some legislative solution similar to Goldwater-Nichols. Such an approach could address the difficult issues of when force should be used, the role of the military within the continental United States, the role of the Reserve Component, and the role of the Executive Branch bureaucracy. Whatever the solution, it must be:

  • Legislation Driven-Creating a legal framework will clearly delineate responsibilities and provide consistency over time;
  • Comprehensive from the Federal Standpoint-All relevant agencies must be included, from DOD to state governments;
  • Not Overseen by the Department of Defense-Otherwise the analysis and recommendations will continue to be DOD-centric, when breadth of vision is required; and
  • Forward Looking-The global war on terror is underway but may not be of infinite duration; other threats exist and should not be marginalized.

The View from the Trenches

This event benefited from the participation of two Adjutant Generals who are actively dealing with BRAC issues in their states. Although both had a series of concerns relating to their individual circumstances, they observed that there were problems with the information gathering mechanisms of BRAC. They echoed concerns voiced at previous events that neither they-nor their senior leadership-were fully part of the process. Another concern, they said, was that the contributions of the National Guard were not fully appreciated by Washington bureaucrats. Their conclusion was that these conditions resulted in a number of unfair BRAC decisions. Other panelists disagreed. They argued that the Pentagon had the responsibility to make decisions based on national security and that would rightly lead to a national security-centric process. Therefore, the information-gathering process would be focused more on national concerns then on state or local concerns. Any state or local security deficiencies caused by a base closure should be the responsibility of local communities. They suggested that these deficiencies would be a great starting point for local communities to develop post-BRAC redevelopment plans.

For more information on Base Realignment and Closure, see Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1867, " BRAC and Per Capita Income," Webmemo No. 748, "Base Realignment and Closure: National Guard and Regional Implications," 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 "BRAC Wars Episode Three: What Were They Thinking?," held at the National Guard Memorial Building on June 15, 2005.

About the Author

Jack Spencer Vice President, the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity

Kathy Gudgel Program Manager
Asian Studies Center