These BRAC proposals include realignments impacting 180 places and closure of 33 major bases in the US. In the four previous BRACs, 85% of the recommended actions were sustained. But, even a 15% pardon rate gives enough hope to governors and congressional delegations to fight the execution of their local defence jobs. And so, lobbying expenditures are on the rise and millions will be spent between May and September. Not to commit to the fight would be an unusual choice for any local politician.
Few of the arguments will be about local jobs; local economic impact is only “another consideration” in the official criteria.
The Secretary of Defence asserts that the proposed actions will give the US what it needs to meet current and expected threats, such as the war on terror, as it removes what the US no longer needs now that the Cold War has been won. In terms of politics, since the generals and the admirals also know their way around the congress, some observers suggest the list includes places that would have previously been judged not worth the fight (because of powerful representation) and, perhaps, omits a place or two that an objective analyst might have selected (ie, that currently have powerful representation).
In terms of outcomes for communities, the results are mixed. Some closed bases now thrive with constructive and even transformative re-use, other redevelopments remain stalled. Overall, only 72% of lost jobs have been recovered.
Missing from this summer’s debates will be discussion of how a closure might actually benefit a community. For many communities, there may be fruitful opportunities ahead if they can mobilise the resources to discover and then implement them. Ironically, while the last-ditch lobbyists in Washington are often hired with little regard for cost, plans for the future use of closed military bases may be left to the imaginations of consultants whose selection (in part) will be based on being the lowest bidder.
Daniel Malachuk is senior managing director at CB Richard Ellis Consulting, New York. During his career, he has advised many of the US’s leading companies and has worked in the White House.