BRAC 2005: DoD Offers Communities Advice on Their Way Forward
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 11, 2005 Speed and agreement are essential as communities face base closure and realignment, a senior defense official said here.
Patrick O'Brien, director of the Office of Economic Adjustment, said DoD stands ready to help communities affected by closures and realignments.
In a recent interview, O'Brien gave some hints what affected communities can do.
"The first building block is to sit down and identify all the jurisdictions affected by that action," he said.
This is not as easy as it may seem, he said. Many times installations are not neatly placed within one jurisdiction. "They transcend jurisdictional bounds - they can be cities, cities and towns, cities and counties, or even regional," he said. In some cases a base is in one state, and much of the work force lives in another state.
The affected community needs to identify all the communities early in the process and then meet with them. The group needs to discuss the ramifications of the BRAC action and agree to what needs to be done, he said. "Once you get your arms around these particular jurisdictions, you have to start thinking about how do you start working together to speak with one voice," he said.
Communities must get over the up-front emotions and start working to fashion long-term solutions, O'Brien said.
If a base is closing, just vacating the property can have an immediate impact, said O'Brien, a member of DoD's senior executive service who has worked on all the previous BRAC rounds. Schools, as well as the housing market, will be affected. The housing market in the area will also be hit. Road and other infrastructure projects may have to be changed.
But none of this will work if each community has a different set of priorities. "This won't succeed unless you have the political and financial backing locally," O'Brien said. "Normally that comes about only because you have brought in the key public and the key private-sector individuals to work with you."
And O'Brien's office is ready to help as soon as the communities want. "What I encourage local officials to do is to review the recommendations," he said. "There will be a period of adjustment."
Communities can "dual-track" this process, he said. In other words, they can argue to overturn the recommendation with the commission but also work with the department on reuse in case they lose their appeal. "(The communities should) give us a call, and we will come out and work with them," he said.