Faulty data may be driving Pentagon's BRAC request

Thursday - 6/27/2013, 5:53am EDT

By Melissa Dawkins
Special to Federal News Radio

The Defense Department is pushing Congress for another round of Base Realignment and Closures, but problems exist with the current formula it uses to help make that determination, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO identified four ways that methods employed by the DoD to evaluate excess capacities prior to a congressionally-authorized BRAC process are insufficient.

First, the DoD currently assigns each installation to only one category: Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Air Force or Defense Logistics Agency. However, a single installation may fit under multiple categories, according to the GAO.

"It has the effect of not really giving an accurate reflection of how much of the total base is actually excess," Brian Lepore, GAO's director of defense capabilities and management issues, said in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose.

Second, the GAO concluded that measures used to determine excess properties were not consistent across mission categories, making it difficult to aggregate data for the entire department.

"You're comparing, again, different processes," Lepore said. "They may be perfectly legitimate in the Navy or perfectly legitimate in the Army, but once you aggregate them, you're really comparing things that are very different potentially."

Another potential issue, according to Lepore, is that DoD is still using data from 1989, the year of the first BRAC round, to help determine current excesses. According to the report, DoD assumes that the department had no excess capacity in 1989. It then bases subsequent evaluations off of that assumption.

"We really don't know whether that's a good baseline," Lepore said. "It certainly doesn't look like a good baseline to us."

Lastly, GAO pointed out that DoD does not recognize capacity shortages, but instead counts shortages as zero. Lepore said rounding up to zero overstates actual excess capacity amounts.

However, John Conger, acting deputy undersecretary of defense, said the results of the DoD excess evaluations are not intended to identify specific bases or organizations for closure or realignment.

"The specific capacity analysis that is an integral part of the BRAC process is preferable to aggregate metrics. The department believes that only through a BRAC process is it able to determine excess capacity by installation and by mission or function in a process that is thorough and fair," Conger wrote in a letter attached to the GAO report.

DoD is currently pushing for another round of BRAC, though Congress has opposed such proposals.

The Pentagon maintains it has about 20 percent excess capacity remaining after the last BRAC round in 2005, according to the GAO report. Similar evaluations of excess capacities were carried out by DoD in 1998 and 2004. The 1998 DoD evaluation found 23 percent excess base capacity and the 2005 evaluation found 24 percent excess.

Melissa Dawkins is an intern for Federal News Radio

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