Federal Times — Base Realignment: New Approach To Delicate Task
Previous base-closure efforts, known as base realignment and closure, or BRAC, began in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War. Four closure rounds shuttered 97 major military installations and 352 smaller ones across the country. But Congress and the Clinton White House brought the process to a screeching halt in 1995.
Now BRAC is embraced by the Bush White House as it pushes for cost-cutting efficiencies and by Pentagon officials who aim to transform the military into a more flexible fighting machine more reliant on information than heavy armor. DuBois, as the deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment, has the reins to the effort. He hopes this BRAC will be different from base closings of the past by encouraging the military services to share resources and technology, and take greater advantage of what may be available in the private sector.
Ã¢€œItÃ¢€™s not your fatherÃ¢€™s BRAC anymore,Ã¢€ DuBois said during an interview at his Pentagon office. Ã¢€œClosure is not necessarily the operative word Ã¢€” it is realignment. WeÃ¢€™ll be moving assets from one base to another. There will certainly be closures, but there may be a lot more realignment than we have anticipated.Ã¢€
Seven joint-service groups focusing on specific issues will also be pitching in for those collective decisions as they share assets and ideas about areas that embrace similar functions, including education and training, industrial affairs, logistics, shipyards, medicine, intelligence, and technical laboratories.
Ã¢€œWhy should every service have its warehouses and its own distribution and its own information systems that control inventory?Ã¢€ DuBois asks. Ã¢€œLook at the way Wal-Mart works and letÃ¢€™s see if we can apply those disciplines, technologies and management skills to a more jointly managed supply and storage distribution process.Ã¢€
DuBois poses more questions than answers about these discussions, but the questions reflect a predisposition for integrating the services with an eye on what the private sector can provide.
Ã¢€œWhen you do a BRAC, you cannot just look at what the military services own in terms of assets, you have to look at what can be done in the private sector,Ã¢€ he said. Ã¢€œYou donÃ¢€™t necessarily want to duplicate things.Ã¢€
This makes an enormous amount of sense. Consolidation of duplicate facilities has been advocated literally for decades with only minimal result. I’m more than mildly surprised that they’re getting away with doing this in a top-down fashion with limited congressional oversight. Congress, because of its nature as a 535-member constituent service institituion, is a natural obstacle to any of these moves because of local impact. Indeed, that’s why the BRAC process was created to begin with; it essentially delegated the hard choices to a blue ribbon panel and Congress could only vote up or down. The process was, unfortunately, destroyed by the Clinton Administration, which put substantial pressure on the commision to prevent the closure of key bases in California and elsewhere, crucial for his 1996 reelection campaign, from making the list. By re-politicizing the process, the rationale behind the BRAC movement was undermined.