Closing down or moving U.S. military facilities under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program is supposed to be saving the government at least $4.2 billion a year. But due to the soaring cost of making things go away, those savings goals are now far from being met, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported to Congress.
When the fifth and latest round of the BRAC program got rolling in 2005, the Department of Defense estimated it would cost "only" $21 billion to close or relocate the 182 targeted facilities. But according to the GAO's report, Key Factors Contributing to BRAC 2005 Results, that cost estimate has now ballooned by 67%, to over $35.1 billion.
GAO's analysis showed that annual savings resulting from BRAC are now about $3.8 billion, a decrease of 9.5%, while the 20-year net present value savings are now about $9.9 billion, a decrease of 73%. At that rate, found the GAO, the military will not recover its up-front costs until 2018.
Why? While the first four rounds of the BRAC program focused simply on saving money by closing facilities, the Department of Defense (DoD) determined that the primary goal of the 5th BRAC round should be to "transform the military," with cost savings assigned a lower priority.
According to the GAO report, the additional complexity of achieving the DoD's vision of a "transformed military" through closing facilities while relocating over 123,000 people and undertaking $24.7 billion in new construction and renovations resulted in more costs and less savings.
In fact, the independent Base Closure and Realignment Commission found DoD's recommendation for the current BRAC round to be of "unprecedented scope and complexity."
"DOD has about 500 permanent installations in the United States that comprise more than 300,000 buildings and about 200,000 other structures with a replacement value of more than $800 billion," wrote the GAO in its report. "Costs to build and maintain the defense infrastructure represent a significant financial commitment. However, closing unneeded defense facilities has historically been difficult because of public concern about the economic effects of closures on communities, the perceived lack of impartiality of the decision-making process, and legal requirements."
Photo: As Other Bases Close, Fort Bragg Builds - Chris Hondros/Getty Images