Communities across the country breathed a sigh of relief last week as the final pages closed on the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure.
Over the years, since the first BRAC closures, communities have looked for ways to bolster the validity of their local military base, and one way of doing so was discussed during the “Building Community/Military Partnerships and Collaboration and Why Local Government Managers Need to Be Engaged Now” session of the 2011 International City/County Management Association conference here Sept. 19.
Sitting on the panel were three all-stars in the their respective fields: Tim Ford, CEO of the Association of Defense Communities; Steve Hundley, Marine Corps Base Quantico's community plans and liaison officer; and Hans Uslar, assistant director of plans and public works for the city of Monterey, Calif.
Even though the last of the 2005 BRAC closures are done, Ford predicts military communities are in for a period of uneasiness.
“A lot of people were taking a deep breath and saying 'wow, we don't need to worry about this because BRAC is over,'” Ford said. “But what we're heading into in the next couple years, and potentially the next decade, is probably bigger than any BRAC round we've ever dealt with. The budget cuts and the changes at [the Department of Defense] could have a very profound impact not just on what DoD does but on the communities that support installations, and what this really comes down to, probably, is an issue of jobs.”
Quantico knows all about the jobs issue as they just recently started seeing 2,700 fresh faces showing up to work at the “Crossroads of the Marine Corps” thanks to the Military Defense Intelligence Agency relocating to the base.
Part of what makes the base continue to be viable is the partnership base commander Col. Daniel J. Choike and Hundley have established with the surrounding communities since they both stepped aboard approximately two short years ago.
“Col. Choike recognized that the three surrounding counties and the base shouldn't continue planning in isolation,” Hundley said. “It's both inefficient and unsustainable, not only for the long term viability of the base's training mission but also for the future health, safety and welfare of the surrounding civilian communities.”
There's really no better case study in the idea of the base partnering with the community than Monterey, Calif., where initial operating cost savings were calculated at 41 percent and current savings in operating costs are estimated to be 22 percent. But building a partnership between the community and the local military base does not necessarily guarantee a life-long marriage.
“Community collaboration will not BRAC-proof your community,” Uslar said. “It will not ensure that you do not get on the list ... it will not prevent them from closing the base. However, the lesson point here is it will help very much to lower the operational expense of the military base.”
As DoD looks to streamline and improve its efficiency in doing business, partnering with the surrounding communities in an effort to lower those expenses is likely to be toward the top of the base commander's to-do list if they haven't done it already.