No military base closings likely through 2015
By Lou Ortiz
The bogeyman — also known as the US Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission — is not coming to Miami-Dade County, not this year or through 2015 if congressional Republicans and Democrats stick to their word.
Escalating costs tied to the previous Base Realignment and Closure Commission [BRAC] in 2005 and recent actions in both the House and Senate indicate that efforts by the US Department of Defense and the Obama Administration for another round of military base closings and realignment are dead — for now.
According to a report by the US Government Accountability Office, anticipated annual cost savings from BRAC 2005 have decreased by $400 million and one-time expenses to implement the closings and realignments have increased by 67%.
"The BRAC 2005 budget submission to Congress shows that one-time implementation costs grew from $21 billion originally estimated by the BRAC Commission in 2005 to about $35.1 billion," said the report dated June 29.
The 2005 BRAC recommendations — by the nine-member commission panel — were the most extensive when compared to the four previous closings and realignments undertaken by the Department of Defense, and they were expected "to reshape its installations and realign its forces to meet defense needs for the next 20 years," the report said.
BRAC 2005 involved "complex realignments, such as designating where military forces returning to the United States from overseas bases would be located; establishing joint military medical centers; creating joint bases; and reconfiguring the defense supply, storage, and distribution network," the report said.
BRAC 2005 actions resulted in 182 recommendations, with military installations in Miami-Dade County escaping relatively unscathed. The recommendations were to be implemented by Sept. 15, 2011.
The Government Accountability Office report points out that annual savings anticipated with the BRAC actions decreased, from $4.2 billion to $3.8 billion a year, the report said.
The report cites numerous examples of the increased implementation costs from BRAC 2005. For instance, realigning the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Virginia increased 129%, from $1.1 billion to $2.6 billion.
The report also said the cost of realignment of Walter Reed Army Medical Center to Bethesda National Naval Medical Center in Maryland increased 175%, from $988.8 million to $1.731 billion.
Fourteen "of 182 BRAC recommendations accounted for about 72% of the cost increase, or $10.2 billion," the report said.
Despite the ballooning costs from BRAC 2005 and the reduced annual savings, Pentagon and administration officials lobbied Congress for another round of closures and realignments next year and in 2015.
In the spring, the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support subcommittee held hearings on reviving BRAC.
"BRAC is the single most effective thing the [defense] department has ever done in terms of producing greater efficiency and savings," Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told the subcommittee, according to a report in the Washington Post.
At those hearings, Pentagon officials told the panel that BRAC is a critical tool in the Defense Department's efforts to cut costs, the Post reported.
But US Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democratic chairman of the subcommittee, told the Pentagon and administration officials that she would not support another BRAC process.
According to the Post, Sen. McCaskill, who is up for reelection in November, said: "I will not support a process that is callous or casual, or one that is rushed before we fully comprehend whether the traumatic task is clearly in the best interests of the American taxpayer and our national security."
According to the office of Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican in May joined Sen. McCaskill and Democratic senators — Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, both of New Hampshire — in rejecting the administration's bid for BRAC panels in 2013 and 2015.
In May, the House Armed Services Committee also rejected an administration request to authorize two rounds of base closings and realignment in 2013 and 2015, according to the ArmyTimes.
The committee added a provision in the defense authorization bill that would bar spending any money next year "to propose, plan for or execute" base closings or realignment process, according to the ArmyTimes.
Military installations in Miami-Dade include the US Southern Command, or SouthCom; the Coast Guard; Homestead Air Force Base; Miami Veterans Administration medical facility; National Guard and reserves, along with retirees.
Officials estimate that the military community accounts for more than $1.2 billion in annual economic activity in the county, and provides over 22,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Earlier this year, the Miami-Dade County Commission created by ordinance a Military Affairs Committee that, among other things, would work to help the county from losing any military facilities.
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