Alaska base overhaul circumvents BRAC, lawmakers say

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, asks how many civilians would be affected by proposed consolidation. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, asks how many civilians would be affected by proposed consolidation. Mark Thiessen/AP

Lawmakers from Alaska claim a Defense Department proposal to consolidate some functions at two large Air Force bases in the state circumvents the Base Closure and Realignment approval process.

The Air Force announced plans earlier this year to transfer an F16 squadron at Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson -- both in Alaska -- anticipating the move could save $3.5 million in fiscal 2013 and $169.5 million during the next five years.

The savings would result from “eliminating approximately 640 manpower authorizations that Headquarters Pacific Air Forces determined were no longer needed at Eielson once the [F16 squadron] relocates,” Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley wrote in a letter to Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

The senators said they’ve yet to receive a concrete answer on the number of civilian cuts the switch would entail and argued the proposal constitutes circumventing a formal Base Closure and Realignment Commission process. They say BRAC would be preferable because it requires a more objective review of Defense closure and realignment proposals.

“In addition to concerns about the validity of cost savings and impact to our defense posture, we also question the wisdom of making decisions regarding real property outside the formal BRAC commission process,” Begich and Murkowski wrote in February in a letter addressed to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

“It our is our understanding you are seeking authorization from Congress for establishment of a BRAC commission in recognition of the value this process provides to DoD,” they wrote. “The Air Force’s proposal appears contrary to your guidance.”

In his response to the Senators, Donley argued the shift was “not a closure” and would not trigger reporting thresholds for realignments under BRAC.

Still, the lawmakers’ charge is notable after Defense officials in March threatened to act outside the BRAC process if they didn’t receive congressional approval to reconvene the commission.

Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment, told lawmakers the Pentagon would be forced to resort to a closure process with less oversight if Congress failed to approve the closures and realignments it proposed.

“One reason we want to avoid that approach is that, if [Defense] acts outside of the BRAC process, the department is severely constrained in what it can do to help local communities,” Robyn warned lawmakers at a March hearing.

The department’s BRAC request has been unpopular with lawmakers, since the 2005 round of closures has yet to see promised savings and has cost the department an estimated $35 billion.

Begich has continued to press Defense officials for information about the consolidation in his state, and he believes other lawmakers are having similar experiences in their districts, a spokeswoman said. The senator told a panel last week that “they cannot give us an answer to this day on civilian [reductions], and we’ve asked them four times.”

“We’ve asked for it over and over and over again,” Begich told Jo Ann Rooney, acting Defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness. “I would expect when they make a reduction to a military base to ship 600-plus people, plus more civilians which we don’t know of, that you would have more information to make those judgments.”

Rooney told Begich she would “check with her team” on the status of his requests. A Defense spokeswoman told Government Executive the department could not currently provide any additional information on the requests.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the name of Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.