GAO has issued the latest in a series of reports raising concerns about how the department handled the most recent round of base realignments and closures—which like its predecessors caused the loss or transfer of tens of thousands of civilian DoD jobs— and warning against using that same process again.
DoD has said in recent years that even after the round that started in 2005—which resulted in the loss of some 12,000 civilian jobs as it closed 23 major bases, realigned 24 major bases and combined 26 installations into 12 joint bases—it has about a fifth too much capacity. Congress has annually rejected Pentagon requests to begin another round, although last year some leaders on the Senate side proposed—but eventually dropped—a variant approach designed to address issues GAO has cited in the past.
GAO’s new report comes as Congress is starting to write the 2019 defense authorization, the measure that would be the vehicle for any new base closings authority. While the Pentagon is not asking for that authority this year, it has not abandoned the idea, saying the money it is spending to keep up underused or vacant facilities would be better used in other ways.
GAO, though, said that lessons from the last round include that: DoD “cannot demonstrate whether the military departments have improved their efficiency or effectiveness” as a result of the 2005 round because it lacks pertinent measures; that the round took six years to complete but even now all the excess property has not been disposed of, with the department still incurring caretaker costs; that environmental cleanup and other costs had been underestimated; and that the process “led to unintended consequences” including difficulties in recruiting at some of the locations where jobs were moved.
GAO also said that the Pentagon has not carried out about half of the more than 60 recommendations from its prior reports—and that the Pentagon affirmatively rejected a recommendation that for any future closings it should first “identify measures of effectiveness and develop a plan to demonstrate achieved results.” Without such a commitment, the latest report said, “DoD cannot demonstrate to Congress whether the implementation of any future BRAC round will improve efficiency and effectiveness or otherwise have the effect that the department says its proposed recommendations will achieve.”