In 1961, President Kennedy took office and found a U.S. defense establishment that was still largely arranged to re-fight World War II. He ordered an extensive consolidation of bases to meet the challenges of the Cold War that was then flaring into a somewhat dangerous phase. Subsequent presidents have continued to refine U.S. military infrastructure as the threats to our country have evolved.
And today the Department of Defense again is in need of change and adjustment. Current arrangements pretty much designed for the Cold War must give way to the new demands of war against extremists and other evolving 21st century challenges.
At the direction of the president, and with the support of the Congress, this department has undertaken several initiatives to address our new circumstance, including, as you know, we've been:
- Changing the U.S. Global Posture,
- Forging new partnerships to fight extremism,
- Transforming U.S. military to a more agile Joint Expeditionary Force,
- And reforming the way the department does its business.
Tomorrow, at the direction of the Congress, the department will present another component of that strategy -- its recommendations to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission for changes to U.S. military installations. This is an important process. Consider the array of issues of concern to this department:
- Making sure the troops have proper equipment,
- Relieving stress on the force,
- Improving the ability of the forces to cooperate jointly, and
- Protecting forces stationed at vulnerable bases and locations across this country and around the world.
If one thinks about those priorities, it clearly makes sense to do all that one can to identify and remove whatever excess exists, to be able to better address those pressing needs, and by so doing, the American taxpayer benefits. This, in essence, is the logic -- and the imperative -- of BRAC.
Let me make a few comments about that process that has been undertaken over the past two and a half years:
- First, as required by law, the primary factor in each BRAC recommendation has been an assessment of an installation's underlying military value. Indeed, military judgments have played the key role from the outset -- and properly so. In a time of war, whenever we can find ways to increase support for military needs -- to help the warfighters -- we should do no less.
- Second, the previous four BRAC rounds, in 1998, (sic) , 1991, 1993 and 1995 -- over time have eliminated some 21 percent of then- excess U.S. military infrastructure, and reallocated many billions of dollars to pressing military needs. This year's recommendation, if approved by the BRAC commission, approved by the president, and ultimately approved by the Congress of the United States, should result in some $5.5 billion in recurring annual savings -- a net savings of $48.8 billion over 20 years. When combined with the proposed changes to U.S. global posture, that projected 20-year net saving increases from $48.8 billion to $64.2 billion, or some $6.7 billion per year;
- Third, for the first time, these deliberations took place with an emphasis on jointness. The military recognizes that operating jointly reduces overhead costs, improves efficiencies; and facilitates cooperative training, research and operations. Importantly, these consolidations also free up personnel and resources to reduce stress on the force and improve force protection. The department also considered potential contingency and surge requirements, and possible increases in active-duty troop levels.
The current BRAC effort began more than two years ago with the development of a 20-Year Force Structure Plan and an exhaustive top- to-bottom inventory of U.S. facilities worldwide. In fact, one might say that the process started even earlier -- with the global posture review that we began in 2001 -- now some four years ago. Indeed, the considerations related to global posture fed into the BRAC analysis -- allowing the department to anticipate and prepare for the return of tens of thousands of personnel and their families, and the knowledge gained by the two-year global posture review has informed the BRAC deliberations in important ways.
Through extensive consultation with the service secretaries, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the combatant commanders, a panel of high-ranking military and civilian officials developed stringent criteria and conditions and matrices to assess the military business and support operations of the department, as well as every facility and military base in the country -- taking into account lessons learned from previous BRAC rounds.
The word "base" of course includes much more than one traditionally thinks of, of a military base. It includes ports, airfields, industrial and research facilities, lease space, and the like.
A word about the criteria used. In addition to assessments of military value, the department also examined other key factors, including:
- The economic impact on existing communities in the vicinity of military installations;
- The extent and timing of potential costs and savings;
- The ability of existing and potential receiving communities' infrastructure to support forces, missions and personnel; and
- The environmental impact, including the impact of costs related to environmental restoration, compliance, and waste management.
I'm advised that during these deliberations:
- Senior military and civilian leaders invested thousands of hours, and their staffs expended tens of thousands of hours to this important work;
- They examined an estimated 25 million pieces of data; and
- They considered some 1,000 different scenarios.
The analysis used certified data under a process monitored by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Defense's inspection and audit agencies.
The department is recommending fewer major base closures than had earlier been anticipated, due in part to the return of tens of thousands of troops through our global posture review, and also due to decisions to reduce lease space by moving activities from lease space into owned facilities.
Nonetheless, the changes that will occur will affect a number of communities -- communities that have warmly embraced nearby military installations for a good many years, indeed, in some cases decades. The department will take great care to work with these communities, with the respect that they have earned, and the government stands ready with economic assistance.
With the strong support of the president, the Department of Defense and other departments of government, are prepared to
- Provide personnel transfer and job-training assistance, in collaboration with the Department of Labor;
- Provide local economic adjustment assistance through the Department of Defense's Office of Economic Adjustment;
- Use our authorities to accelerate and support reuse needs; and
- Work with the Department of Commerce and other federal agencies to assist local economic recovery.
More information on economic assistance -- as well as other information relating to BRAC -- can be found on the department's website, which I believe is shown up there. http://www.defenselink.mil/brac
It's helpful to note that many local economies impacted by previous BRAC decisions successfully found ways to get positive results out of a situation that at first must have seemed dire -- which, of course, is a tribute to the ingenuity and resilience of the American people. For example, I've never been through a BRAC before, so this is my first time; that occurred after I had left the department many years ago. But I'm told that:
- Within a decade of the base's closure, the community around Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire employed an aggressive economic development plan to generate more than a thousand percent increase in civilian jobs.
- In Arizona, Williams Air Force Base became the Williams Gateway Airport -- and has attracted many civilian jobs, and its education center is bringing in thousands of students.
- And many cities have turned shutdown Navy bases into new business centers with thousands of new jobs.
All affected communities will not be able to replicate such positive results, of course, but every effort will be made to assist.
With the submission tomorrow, the Defense Department will complete its statutory role in the BRAC process. All further decisions, deliberations and analysis will occur under the auspices of the statutory BRAC commission, and ultimately from the commission to the president of the United States, and then to the Congress of the United States.
Because the BRAC commission can assess more information and will have the opportunity to hold hearings and learn from potentially impacted communities, it's possible that the commission may make some changes to these recommendations, as have prior BRAC commissions. I'm told that prior BRACs have made some 10 to 15 percent changes in what was recommended.
I do want to thank the BRAC commissioners for agreeing to serve our country, and for undertaking this important assignment. It's a difficult one. And we appreciate it.
One final note. I want to thank the many civilian and military personnel in this department, including Chairman Dick Myers and the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are here; Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who chaired the Infrastructure Executive Council; the service secretaries; Undersecretary Mike Wynne and his very able team, some of which are sitting over there, who have devoted countless hours to developing these recommendations. The department has relied heavily on their judgment, analysis and recommendations, and believes that the process put in place was fair and deliberative. I have full confidence that all of those who have participated are dedicated to the very best military interests of our nation and to the outstanding men and women who serve in uniform.
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