The modern Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) grew out of a dilemma faced by late-80s policymakers who realized any effort to reduce defense spending ran headlong into the realities of pork-barrel politics.
In the same way that defense spending has often been touted as a job-creation mechanism–vide Paul Krugman’s alien invasion stimulus–any efforts to close bases or draw down certain programs had been vehemently opposed by the legislators in whose districts the money was spent. The ostensibly neutral BRAC was set up by congress to deal with this problem.
But in the most recent round of base closures, they appear to have done a terrible job of actually saving money. Walter Pincus reports on a $14 billion cost overrun:
Brace yourself: This is another story of uncontrolled Pentagon spending with almost no public attention.
In its latest review of the 2005 BRAC program — the largest and most complex —the GAO found that the estimated cost of $21 billion to implement the program had grown to $35 billion by Sept. 30, 2011.
But the report’s stun factor isn’t limited to the missteps in planning and calculations. It seems that no one in these cases stepped back to try a less costly path.
Several of the 180 projects have been mishandled:
A misjudgment about space was also involved in a $1.1 billion increase associated with closing Fort Monmouth, N.J., and moving its functions to Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade, both in Maryland, and to Fort Belvoir.
The biggest increase came when the Army realized, after changes had begun, that it needed an additional 750,000 square feet of construction for the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Center of Excellence at Aberdeen.
He doesn’t even mention the fiasco that is Alexandria’s Mark Center, which prompted a letter in late May from both Virginia senators and Reps. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) asking then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates to postpone the move. They cite several falsehoods and instances of neglect in the Army’s preliminary transportation surveys, noting obvious traffic problems, lack of parking, and access to public transportation:
The DOD IG found that the Army did not include or sufficiently address several critical travel demand management strategies in its plan and recommended that it conduct a more technically robust, stand-alone traffic impact analysis, noting the BRAC #133 Environmental Assessment and/or TMP study limits were very narrowly defined. The IG noted that VDOT regulations require a standard for traffic impact analysis for the affected area radius to be up to two miles. To date, the Army has not accepted the IG’s recommendations. This is unacceptable.
The mayor of Alexandria, among others, has also voiced concerns about the security of the newly-built, primarily glass-fronted military command facility that sits on the most trafficked interstate corridor into the nation’s capital.