Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been attempting to realign and increase the efficiency of military agencies with its ongoing Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Hundreds of military installations have been closed in five separate BRAC rounds, which began in 1988.
The most recent realignment round, BRAC 2005, was a massive undertaking, the costliest and most complicated to date. In contrast to previous rounds, which focused on reducing infrastructure, the goals for BRAC 2005 included an ambitious transformation of military operations. More than a dozen major installations were scheduled for closure, including the Navy Supply Corps School, Fort Gillem, and Fort McPherson, all in the U.S. state of Georgia.
Although there has not been another round since 2005 (largely due to funding issues), the BRAC process will continue, officials say. And so, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked by Congress to review DoD's performance during BRAC 2005, so that DoD could improve future BRAC rounds.
The report, Military Bases: DOD Should Address Challenges with Communication and Mission Changes to Improve Future Base Realignment and Closure Rounds, examines to what extent the DoD has measured the achievement of its BRAC 2005 goals, and whether DoD is in a good position to measure the goal achievement of any future BRAC rounds. It also examines whether DoD has yet implemented previous GAO recommendations on the BRAC process, which were aimed at addressing potential challenges to improving performance of future BRAC rounds.
The report's findings were somewhat disquieting. In general, DoD did not measure the achievement level of the BRAC 2005 goals of reducing excess military infrastructure, transforming operations, and promoting joint activities among the different departments.
"Air Force officials stated that they did not measure the achievement of goals but that it would have been helpful to have metrics to measure success, especially because DoD had requested from Congress another BRAC round," the report found.
U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps officials also said that they did not track performance measures or otherwise measure BRAC 2005 goal achievement.
In response, DoD officials argued that the agency should not be required to measure the achievement of its BRAC goals, and so there are no current plans to do so. And officials from the Army, Navy, and Air Force all stated that, although they did not measure goal achievement, they did measure the savings produced as a result of BRAC 2005 moves.
Still, the GAO argued that measuring savings is not enough. "Measuring savings did not allow DoD to know whether it achieved the goal of reducing excess infrastructure," the report states.
The report makes a plea to Congress: require metrics to increase the chances of future BRAC success. "If Congress would like to increase its oversight for any future BRAC round, requiring DoD to identify appropriate measures of effectiveness and track achievement of its goals would provide it with improved visibility over the expected outcomes," the report says.