The Pentagon has completed its two-year analysis of which domestic military bases to close or realign. A mass of recommendations awaits the approval of defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. With only two months left before the list must be submitted to members of a presidential commission for review, it isn’t likely there will be major revisions to what has already been decided. As expected, the department proposes to close more military facilities than in any previous round, considerably shrinking the 24% of domestic basing capacity deemed to be excess by the department.
Communities from Pine Bluff, Arkansas to Kittery, Maine are about to get some very bad news. But because there will be gainers as well as losers in the process, Congress isn’t likely to reject the findings of the commission. So what can communities with endangered bases do to protect their interests? Basically, there is only one thing: they have to counter a negative recommendation with arguments employing the same analytical framework the Pentagon used. In other words, they have to prove to commissioners that policymakers did not apply the official methodology for assessing bases correctly. Here are the four lines of reasoning likely to prove most successful.
1. Threat Assessment. The base closure process is supposed to yield a domestic basing system matched to the military challenges of the next 20 years. But the experience of the last four years suggests that the Pentagon isn’t very good at projecting threats. So when the Navy recommends realignment of the last military airfield in New England (at Brunswick, Maine), it shouldn’t be hard to convince commissioners that the military needs at least one airfield in New England for dealing with emergent threats like cruise missile attacks from offshore shipping.
2. Analytical Database. The Pentagon’s case for why its recommendations should prevail comes down mainly to the fact that it has the best data. But most of its base closure proposals will be grounded in data for fiscal 2003. That means the logistical demands of fighting a counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq may be missing from the database. So when the Army recommends realignment of Rock Island Arsenal (in Illinois), local defenders may be able to demonstrate that its industrial skills have played a pivotal role in providing vehicles with better protection during a military emergency — a role not fully reflected in Pentagon data.
3. Projected Savings. The legislation authorizing this year’s base closure round requires that each of the military services be able to demonstrate net savings from their basing decisions “not later than fiscal year 2011.” But the Pentagon is even worse at projecting costs than it is at projecting threats. So when the Marine Corps recommends realignment of its logistics center at Albany, Georgia, local backers should be able to prove it has underestimated the cost of moving maintenance functions, carrying out environmental remediation, and other tasks.
4. Asset Valuation. Four of the eight criteria in the Pentagon’s base closure methodology — the four most important — concern military value. But the department’s approach to assessing the value of facilities and skills is far more subjective than policymakers are willing to admit. So when the Army recommends realignment of Watervliet Arsenal (in New York), it will not be difficult to demonstrate that the cannon-making capabilities at that site are unique in the nation — hard to transfer or replicate elsewhere, and too important to simply eliminate.
Find Archived Articles: