Communities Affected by BRAC Have Transition Partner
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 10, 2005 As the next round of base realignment and closure looms on the horizon, the Office of Economic Adjustment stands ready to assist affected communities.
The office's role, said Patrick O'Brien, OEA director, is to help communities affected by Defense Department program changes. That assistance comes in the form of helping communities envision a strategy for positively weathering the changes.
"Our office is expected to go out (and) work with the affected jurisdiction or jurisdictions and, in essence, assist them to plan and carry out adjustment strategies in response to the program actions of the department," O'Brien said.
OEA has project managers who go out and become part of the "fabric" of the affected communities, O'Brien said. They get to know the needs and desires of the community. Once the issues are identified, they then work to bring the community together to begin to address the changes it's facing, he explained.
O'Brien said getting project managers into the field to assess needs is critical to a smooth transition through BRAC.
"Success is dependent on partnering," he said, "partnering with the military department that may be undertaking the action locally, partnering with other public sources. You have states that have a tremendous amount of talent and resources and expertise. You have other regional and local governmental entities that should be brought to the table."
But because the impact of a realignment or closure sometimes is bigger than the public sector can handle itself, he said, the private sector also should be involved in transition planning.
While OEA has helped communities plan BRAC transitions for years, O'Brien said, the process never is routine. He acknowledged that no two communities are the same, so the response must be tailored to each community.
And though OEA's response to a BRAC announcement is quick, the organization stays out of the decisionmaking on BRAC or any other DoD program changes, the director said. His office's job does not start until after DoD announces that a change will be made.
"Once the decision is made to close or realign a base, our office will immediately be available to sit down with the affected jurisdiction and ... tailor a program to be responsive to the situation," O'Brien said. "We feel that it's very important that this process be community based -- that the affected jurisdictions have to decide how their backyards are going to be used."
How long OEA maintains a partnership with a community depends on the amount of impact BRAC has, the director noted. Communities suffering a greater impact, he explained, may require assistance for five to seven years. Those less affected may need help for only two or three years.
With transformation under way and citing its effect on the U.S. military's European footprint, O'Brien said that this time around OEA may be helping communities deal with base growth, as some units now based overseas are brought back to the United States.
But regardless of whether BRAC causes loss or growth, O'Brien said, when the list is announced in about two months, OEA will find itself again upholding its motto: "Helping Communities Help Themselves.