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Implementation of BRAC begins this year

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Dec. 27, 2005) -- Now that the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission has approved, modified or disapproved the Office of the Secretary of Defense's recommendations for the 2005 round of base realignment and closure, the individual services must plan the implementation of those recommendations.

The Air Force will be responsible, or will be "the business manager," for planning implementation of 63 BRAC recommendations.

Col. James P. Holland, director of the Air Force's BRAC program management office, is spearheading that effort.

His office "stood up" in October and is chartered to work through Sept 15, 2011. That is the official date when the Air Force is required by law to have implemented the approved recommendations.

"In simple terms, BRAC PMO is to implement the recommendations handed down by the BRAC commission," Colonel Holland said. "That involves many things ... relocating the missions as the commission directs ... and moving people and resources."

Some recommendations involve moving aircraft from one installation to another. Planning for that, Colonel Holland said, might be one of the easier tasks facing the BRAC PMO, especially if it is just a few aircraft to be moved to an installation that already supports them.

"The easiest part is actually moving the aircraft, and we do that at the very end," he said. "For instance, within the Air National Guard it is something just as simple as moving three to six jets from one location to another."

But most of the approved BRAC recommendations will not be so easy to implement. For instance, some installations might not yet be ready to support their new missions.

"We have to look at the ability of the facilities and the installation as a whole to be able to accept the new missions," Colonel Holland said. "We look at the support facilities, housing, medical care, child care, physical fitness facilities, commissary and exchanges, for instance. Can the community as a whole -- not only on the base, but also the external community -- accept these new missions in a timely manner?"

Organizations similar to the BRAC PMO exist, by law, in the other services as well. Another challenge of implementing BRAC will be to work with those organizations to implement BRAC changes that involve multiple services, Colonel Holland said.

The Air Force has 63 recommendations it is responsible for planning, and many of them involve more than just the Air Force. The BRAC PMO must work with the other services to plan those, Colonel Holland said.

"One of our goals was to increase jointness," Colonel Holland said of BRAC. "So we are doing many (projects) with the Army and the Navy."

For instance, the 7th Special Forces Group, currently headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C., will be moved to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

"That will involve moving approximately 1,300 U.S. Army troops onto Eglin Air Force Base," Colonel Holland said.

The BRAC PMO must help pave the way for Eglin to accept that new mission, and it will work hand-in-hand with the Army to ensure a smooth transition, he said.

Of course, BRAC PMO members will not be involved in the exacting, detailed planning for constructing a new building at a base to house a new unit. And it will not plan where individual Airmen will live, or what building they will move to or even when they will travel to their new location. That kind of detailed planning will be left to the subordinate units most affected by the approved BRAC recommendation.

The job of the BRAC PMO will be to set general guidelines, plan timetables, set deadlines and manage funding to ensure the moves happen correctly.

"What we do is build the program action directive," Colonel Holland said. "The (directive) lays out the overarching guidance ... and the requirements (units) must implement as they develop their specific plans to execute the movements and beddowns of new missions."

The BRAC PMO is currently developing the program action directive, which is the overarching guidance for implementing the movements, he said.

Out of the PADs for the 63 approved BRAC recommendations, he expects implementation of some will begin in early 2006.

"The first thing we will do in large part will be looking at the facility requirements," he said. "We will begin the planning and design requirements for the military construction projects ... that will begin in fiscal 2007. We will also start moving aircraft and some personnel in 2007."

While the federal BRAC laws say the BRAC PMO must exist until 2011, the reality is it will probably be around much longer.

Some BRAC recommendations require disposal of Air Force property, which involves addressing environmental issues. How those issues are addressed will depend on the condition of the properties and the methods used to dispose of them. The Air Force may then be responsible for cleaning up that property to meet Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. And that cleanup effort may last long after 2011. The BRAC PMO will remain until all those cleanups are complete.