The Defense Department is asking Congress to make it easier for military bases to form partnerships with local communities to cut base operating and maintenance costs. As part of the Defense Department's proposal for closing additional bases, the Pentagon is seeking legislation that would allow local communities to become partners in the ownership, operation or maintenance of military installations. Pete Aldridge, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, unveiled Defense's new base closing proposal
, dubbed the Efficient Facilities Initiative of 2001, at a Pentagon news conference Thursday. The partnership proposal would be modeled after a pilot program at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio that won the approval of lawmakers. The effort, known as the Brooks City Base Project, grew out of the Air Force's desire to reduce operating costs and the city's desire to use the base's valuable real estate and technical facilities to attract new business to San Antonio. Under the unprecedented public-private partnership, the Air Force will turn over ownership of the base to San Antonio and then lease back the land and space at no cost to the Air Force under a long-term agreement. In return, the city will provide all municipal services to the base at no cost and split any profits from commercial leasing or other business it generates at the base. The deal will save the base $10 million in reduced costs, while San Antonio says it could make millions developing the land. The partnership also improves the base's prospects for staying open because it cuts operating costs. Some congressional critics had chafed at the Brooks legislation, saying it was a way to "BRAC-proof" Brooks, but lawmakers may be likely to support a new proposal to protect bases and spur economic development if it would extend to their states and districts. Rep. Ciro Rodriquez, D- Texas, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in June that Brooks is becoming a national model "for military cost savings and local economic development through military-civilian partnerships."