GRASSLEY SAYS HE WILL VOTE TO DISAPPROVE BRAC RECOMMENDATIONS
Iowa Senator says process flawed, Commission failed in its responsibilities
Sen. Chuck Grassley today announced that he will vote for a joint resolution to disapprove the 2005 BRAC recommendations, if such a resolution comes before the Senate. One is under consideration in the House of Representatives right now.
Grassley said his protest of these recommendations comes after lengthy consideration. "I've always voted to authorize base closure rounds in recognition of the Defense Department's stated need to restructure our military facilities to meet current and future needs," he said. "This year, however, I've got serious concerns that have not been put to rest - despite pretty exhaustive efforts to put them to rest - about the final deliberations of the BRAC Commission. I do not have full confidence that the Commission's process was thorough and fair."
Grassley said that he knew going into the process this year that the Rock Island Arsenal could lose jobs, and he was glad that full closure wasn't recommended. He said that he lost confidence in the Commission because the Commission never refuted concerns made by the local community and state and federal officials. "For example, it produced no evidence that the TACOM move made economic sense or would be more efficient," Grassley said. "In fact, the Commission gave a misleading presentation that indicated the move made economic sense when, in fact, it didn't make sense based on data used by the Commission. Both the BRAC staff and the Commissioners failed in their responsibilities, and I cannot endorse their final product."
The full text of Grassley's Senate floor statement detailing his rational follows here. A copy of the letter Grassley received from the BRAC Commission can be found by clicking here.
I rise to speak on the Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, process that occurred this year. I have always voted to authorize base closure rounds in deference to the Department of Defense's stated need to restructure our military facilities to meet current and future needs. Nevertheless, the ceding of significant authority by Congress to an independent commission is an extraordinary step that should not be undertaken frequently or lightly. When Congress does lend its power to an independent commission, we retain the responsibility to closely monitor the commission's deliberations and actions. I have done so with respect to the 2005 BRAC Commission, naturally paying the closest attention to the issues before the Commission that affect Iowans.
My observation of the Commission's final deliberations raised some concerns about the information and reasoning used in making its decisions. I followed up with a letter to the Commission to clarify these concerns and have recently received a response that did nothing to allay my concerns. As a result, I have now concluded that I do not have full confidence that this was a thorough and fair process.
A joint resolution to disapprove the 2005 BRAC recommendations has been introduced in the House and has just been marked up by the House Armed Services Committee. It will now be considered under expedited procedures. I would urge my colleagues in the House to approve this resolution. Obviously, if this resolution is not approved by the House, Senate action will be meaningless. But, if the Senate does take up such a resolution, I will vote to disapprove the 2005 BRAC recommendations.
The BRAC Commission is charged with reviewing the recommendations of the Department of Defense and altering those recommendations if they are found to deviate substantially from the BRAC criteria. On that basis, the Quad Cities community in Iowa and Illinois challenged some recommendations for the Rock Island Arsenal and did not challenge others.
One issue on which I thought we had a clear cut case of a substantial deviation of the BRAC criteria was the proposed move of the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, organization at the Rock Island Arsenal to the Detroit Arsenal. This proposal was essentially a footnote to a consolidation of what's called inventory control point functions from 11 separate organizations around the country that would now report to the Defense Logistics Agency. The consolidation of inventory control point functions would affect 52 people at TACOM Rock Island and was not challenged by the community. However, the DoD recommendation then, puzzlingly, proposed to move the rest of the approximately 1000 employees of TACOM Rock Island to the TACOM Headquarters at the Detroit Arsenal in Michigan.
The facilities at the Detroit Arsenal are already strained to capacity. The base is encroached on all sides and has no room to grow. In fact, the Detroit Arsenal is rated far lower in military value than the Rock Island Arsenal. Moving in 1000 new employees will require major military construction. That includes building two parking garages to replace the already limited parking space that would be used up. What's more, because of higher locality pay in the area, it will cost significantly more in the long term to pay those employees at the new location. You also lose some unique facilities currently used by TACOM Rock Island, like a machine shop and live fire range. In addition, there will be no space to house the outside contractors currently embedded with TACOM Rock Island, who would also need to move but aren't counted in the BRAC data.
The Quad Cities community challenged this proposed move on the basis of military value, and the enormous costs both up-front and in the long run. In fact, the move would cost the taxpayers millions of dollars more out into the future. This point was made clear when Commissioner Skinner visited the Rock Island Arsenal. It featured prominently in my testimony before three BRAC Commissioners at the regional hearing in St. Louis. My colleagues, Senators Durbin, Obama, and Harkin and Representative Evans also made this point at the regional hearing. This was followed by a detailed presentation by community representatives. Members of our bi-state congressional delegation reinforced this point in follow-up phone calls to commissioners. Finally, community representatives and congressional staff met with the BRAC Commission staff to make sure they knew about the costs.
When it came time for the final deliberations, the Commission considered the TACOM move with the consolidation of inventory control point functions. I question this approach to start with since the TACOM move was completely unrelated to the other moves in the recommendation. It was obvious by Commissioner Skinner's questions to the BRAC staff that considering these unrelated moves in one recommendation confused the commissioners. Commissioner Skinner asked twice how the move being considered would affect another move from the Rock Island Arsenal to the Detroit Arsenal that he believed would be considered separately. He had to be corrected twice by staff who explained that it was all part of one recommendation.
Furthermore, despite all the briefings from the community, the BRAC staff presented a summary of the community's concerns that omitted the critical issue of the long term costs of the move. The summary's only reference to cost was a relatively minor concern that the number of positions to move were underestimated. When Commissioner Skinner asked how increased estimates of the military construction costs at the Detroit Arsenal would affect the payback, the BRAC staff responded that "Payback with the new scenario, new MILCON, is $1.8 billion savings over 20 years, still a large savings." However, that figure refers to the entire recommendation package, not just the otherwise unrelated TACOM move. I believe that response by the BRAC staff was intellectually dishonest and misleading.
The disturbing fact is that the TACOM move will actually squander $128.23 in taxpayer money. I pointed out this problem in a message delivered to Commissioner Skinner before the Commission's final vote on the BRAC report, but no action was taken. Only after the final vote has the Commission admitted to me in a letter that the TACOM move, taken by itself, would cost $128.23 million over the 20 year time frame used in their estimate. The Commission's letter also confirmed that the commissioners were never briefed about the cost of the TACOM move by itself.
In its response to me, the BRAC Commission continued to justify considering the cost of the TACOM move in terms of the net present value of the entire recommendation. However, in reference to another portion of the same recommendation regarding a cryptological unit at Lackland Air Force Base, the slide used by the BRAC staff for its presentation read, "The extent and timing of potential costs outweigh potential savings with no payback of investment." The same could have been said about the TACOM portion of the recommendation. The Commission then voted to overturn the portion of the recommendation to realign Lackland Air Force Base. In this case, the Commission did consider one portion of the larger recommendation separately, including a staff analysis of the payback for just that portion of the recommendation, and voted to overturn that component of the larger recommendation. The Commission's justification for its failure to do so with respect to the TACOM portion of that recommendation therefore falls flat.
In fact, there is evidence that the selective presentation of facts by the BRAC staff resulted in commissioners misunderstanding the issue when voting. In justifying his decision on the TACOM move in an interview with the Rock Island Argus, Commissioner Skinner said of the BRAC staff's analysis, "They said there's still significant payback by doing that and that was the major objection that they (the community) had." (I ask unanimous consent that this article be printed in the Record.) Commissioner Skinner should have known the most about this proposed move from his site visits to both the Rock Island Arsenal and the Detroit Arsenal, but his statement is inaccurate . It seems clear from this quote that he was mislead by relying on the faulty presentation by the BRAC staff.
Of course, while cost is a major consideration in BRAC, it's not the only consideration. Still, if a recommendation contains significant costs, like the TACOM move, there must be a very compelling case for an increase in military value to justify the costs. In this case, I think it's clear that more is lost in terms of military value than is gained. Moreover, the Commission never got to this point since the BRAC staff represented that the move was justified based on cost.
I don't believe that DoD made this recommendation based on a conclusion that consolidating TACOM in one location would increase military value in the first place. Several smaller components of TACOM in other locations were not proposed for consolidation. Still, if there was a compelling case for merging the two TACOM organizations together, then why wasn't the Rock Island Arsenal considered as a receiving site? The Rock Island Arsenal could accommodate all the personnel at Detroit Arsenal without major military construction, possibly even allowing Detroit Arsenal to be closed entirely. The Rock Island Arsenal was never considered as a receiving installation by DoD since it was assumed to be closing during much of DoD's internal BRAC process.
In fact, the preliminary assumption that the Rock Island Arsenal would close is why it was not considered as a receiving site for the consolidation of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Installation Management Agency, and Civilian Personnel Operations Center. In the case of the Civilian Personnel Operations Center, the BRAC staffer who presented this issue to the Commission pointed out that this was not fair and equal treatment, which is a violation of the BRAC rules. The Commission then voted to overturn the recommendation based on the fairness issue. I asked the BRAC Commission to answer why this same logic did not apply to their actions in each of these areas. The response stated that each recommendation was developed and briefed separately by DoD supporting different initiatives. This does not answer my question as to why the Commission did not overturn each of these recommendations on the basis of fairness as they did, rightly, with the Civilian Personnel Operations Center.
For instance, like the Civilian Personnel Operations Center at the Rock Island Arsenal, the Defense Finance and Accounting site was ranked number one in military value of all such sites. Given the low labor costs and room to expand, it would be an ideal location to which to consolidate other sites if it were given fair and equal consideration. The Commission even questioned the sites chosen by DoD as receiving sites based on higher costs and lower value. Yet, in the end, the Commission chose to rearrange the sites to receive the consolidation and keep open two smaller sites with lower value than Rock Island. At a minimum, the Commission should have voted to keep open the Defense Finance and Accounting Service at the Rock Island Arsenal based on the same fairness consideration as the Civilian Personnel Operations Center. Ideally, it should have chosen the Rock Island Arsenal as a receiving site.
Mr. President, I knew going into this BRAC process that the Rock Island Arsenal could lose jobs. In fact, I'm relieved that DoD did not recommend full closure as first contemplated. Moreover, as I testified before the BRAC Commission, if was determined that an organization would be more efficient and less expensive somewhere else, then I could have lived with that. On this basis, I was even prepared for the BRAC Commission to disagree with my assessment about the proposals for the Rock Island Arsenal that I didn't think made any sense.
However, what I saw in the BRAC Commission's final deliberations took me by surprise. The Commission did not refute the concerns raised by the community. No evidence was produced that the TACOM move made economic sense or would be more efficient. Instead, the staff gave a misleading presentation that gave the impression that the move made economic sense when it did not based on the data used by the Commission. That doesn't mean I absolve the commissioners from responsibility in this either. Four of them had seen a presentation by the community and all of them had been contacted by members of Congress. They had a responsibility to challenge the staff when the staff analysis didn't match what they had heard previously. In this respect, both the BRAC staff and the commissioners failed in their responsibilities. In the end, what I have seen has caused me to lose confidence in the work of the BRAC Commission. As a result, I cannot endorse their final product.