The Defense Department’s 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) has exceeded original cost expectations by 67 percent, from the original estimate of $21 billion to $35 billion, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
BRAC was intended to save the Pentagon an estimated $4.2 billion per year in net annual recurring savings. Yet due to increasing costs – primarily in military construction – the savings now stands at $3.8 billion, a decline of nearly 10 percent, the GAO said.
The 2005 BRAC round was the fifth and most ambitious of military realignment programs that began in 1988. It includes hundreds of actions involving 800 defense locations and the planned relocation of 125,000 personnel. Yet out of the 182 approved BRAC 2005 projects, 75 will cost more than they’ll save. Overall, BRAC 2005 will cost nearly as much as the previous four rounds combined and GAO said.
Construction costs for BRAC 2005 increased 86 percent, from $13.2 billion estimated by the BRAC Commission to $24.5 billion according to DOD’s fiscal year 2011 BRAC budget. Other contributors to the cost increases were underestimated requirements for outfitting or furnishing buildings, and expanded information technology needs, the GAO said.
In the report, the DoD acknowledged that the GAO accurately described changes in estimated costs and savings. Yet the DoD “continues to believe that the BRAC process is the only fair, objective, and proven process for closing and realigning bases in the United States.”
Loren Thompson, a defense industry analyst for the Lexington Institute, suggested that Congress should consider establishing cost-savings targets for future BRAC commission members.
The BRAC 2005 projects that accounted for the highest price increases were:
• Realigning Walter Reed Army Medical Center to Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Md., and Ft. Belvoir, Va. The original estimate was $989 million but increased to $2.7 billion.
• Consolidating the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at Ft. Belvoir, which saw an increase from the $1 billion estimate to $2.6 billion.
• Closing Ft. Monmouth, N.J., with an increase from $780 million to nearly $1.9 billion.
• Establishing the San Antonio Regional Medical Center and realigning training to Ft. Sam Houston, Tex., which saw an increase from $1.04 billion to nearly $2 billion.
• Reaaligning maneuver training to Ft. Benning, Ga., which increased from an estimate of $773 million to nearly $1.7 billion.