Primer: Understanding Military Base Realignment and Closure

May 13, 2005 -- -- The Pentagon proposed shutting about 180 military installations from Maine to Hawaii including 33 major bases, triggering the first round of base closures in a decade and an intense struggle by communities to save their facilities.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also recommended a list of scores of other domestic installations including 29 major bases that will remain open but with thousands fewer troops. Dozens of others will gain troops from other domestic or foreign bases.

The proposal calls for a massive shift of U.S. forces that would result in a net loss of 29,005 military and civilian jobs at domestic installations. Overall, the proposals pull 218,570 military and civilian positions out of some U.S. bases while adding 189,565 positions to others, according to documents obtained by The AP.

Below are some very basic facts and figures to aid in understanding BRAC.


There are about 3,727 military "sites" in the United States, including everything from big bases to tiny offices, according to the Defense Department. That includes 95 large installations, 99 medium installations and 3,535 small installations. A March 2004 report estimated that about 24 percent of the nation's "base capacity" was "excess." Rumsfeld, however, told newspaper editorial writers recently that excess now looks to be only about 10 percent to 12 percent of the capacity.


The last four rounds of base closing -- in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 -- resulted in 97 major base closures, 55 "major realignments" and 235 "minor actions" for a net savings of $18 billion through fiscal year 2001. Every year since then, another $7 billion a year has been saved.

Why Close Bases?

To save money and eliminate waste. To become more efficient by becoming more "joint," meaning the Army/Navy/Marines/Air Force living, working and training together on the same bases. Also to make basing reflect the ever-evolving military. For example, why keep a base if the people have already been eliminated or moved elsewhere? Or why maintain a hangar that no longer houses planes?

Which Bases Will Close?

We won't know until it is announced.

The Criteria

The main criterion for assessing a base is "military value," which basically means the ability to prepare for and win a war. Other considerations include the economic impact on communities, the extent and timing of cost savings, and environmental impact.

The Commission

To reject, change or add new recommendations, the commission must find Rumsfeld "deviated substantially" from the BRAC plan or the selection criteria.

The names of the members can be found on the Defense Department's Web site.

Economic Impact

BRAC panel chair Anthony Principi, the former secretary for Veterans Affairs, says base closings will hit impacted communities like tsunamis.

A Government Accountability Office report last week found "recovery for some communities [that lost bases in previous rounds] remains a challenge, while other communities surrounding a base closure are faring better. As DOD last reported, as of Sept. 30, 2004, almost 85 percent (110,086) of the 129,649 DOD civilian jobs lost on military bases as a result of realignments or closures in the previous BRAC rounds had been replaced at these locations as the properties were redeveloped."

This does not include other jobs created off the bases. As for that, "the unemployment rate and the average annual real per capita income growth rate -- show that BRAC communities are generally doing well when compared with average U.S. rates," according to the GAO's Web site.


Some states have decided to spend millions of dollars on lobbying to save their bases. A waste of money? DOD says lobbyists have had "zero impact on the deliberations of the department," though top officials acknowledge they have met with both elected and hired representatives of states and communities.

The Timeline

May 13 -- Recommendations announced.

May 16 -- Deadline for Rumsfeld to file his recommendations in the Federal Register.

May 16-Sept. 8 -- BRAC commission reviews Rumsfeld's recommendations before sending a list to the president.

Sept. 23 -- The president must either reject the list -- which would kick it back to the commission -- or send it to the commission and to Congress. Congress would then have 45 days to reject it or to do nothing. If Congress were to reject the list in a joint resolution, the president could veto that.

Prior Base Closings By State

To find out about previous base closings in your state, look at the map on the Defense Department's Office of Economic Adjustment site.

Prior Base Closings By Year

To see bases that closed in the last base realignment and closing process, you can go to the Defense Department's Office of Economic Adjustment site.