WAMU 88.5 : News

What Is BRAC? Your Questions Answered

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Secretary of the Army John McHugh (center left) walks out of the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital Meadows Pavilion along with Col. Susan Annicelli (center right), commander of DeWitt Army Community Hospital, and other U.S. Army and Defense Department officials, April 13, 2011.
U.S. Army photo by Marc Barnes, http://www.flickr.com/photos/belvoirhospital/5618434949/
Secretary of the Army John McHugh (center left) walks out of the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital Meadows Pavilion along with Col. Susan Annicelli (center right), commander of DeWitt Army Community Hospital, and other U.S. Army and Defense Department officials, April 13, 2011.

What does BRAC stand for?

Base Realignment and Closure

What is BRAC?

Loosely, BRAC is the process by which the Department of Defense is reducing the number and size of its installations in the U.S. and around the world. DOD makes recommendations to the independent BRAC commission, and the commission makes the final recommendations to Congress. Congress passes a law codifying the changes, and DOD begins implementation.

What is BRAC 2005?

BRAC 2005 is shorthand for Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005, the federal law dictating the reductions the Department of Defense is currently making.

What does 'realignment' mean?

'Realignment' encompasses all types of changes to military installations other than closure. For example, it could refer to the combination of two or more existing installations, the movement of particular functions or divisions from one base to another, or the co-location of services in different branches of the military that are performing the same function.

Have there been other BRACs?

Yes. The first BRAC law was passed in 1988, and others followed in 1991, 1993, and 1995. BRAC 2005 includes the longest list of closures and changes undertaken to date. Prior to 1988, the Department of Defense made decisions about base changes unilaterally.

BRAC 2005 Regional Job Shifts

BRAC activities can represent dramatic changes for military personnel and their surrounding communities. Thousands of employees can be added to bases and neighborhoods during a matter of months, while other installations that have been community institutions for years are shut down.

In total, the BRAC Commission in 2005 recommended closing 22 bases, and changing or shifting operations at 160 others.

Many D.C. region installations are experiencing changes as a result of BRAC 2005, and a deadline for the majority of the big moves -- September 15, 2011 -- is rapidly approaching. Among the biggest changes:

  • Walter Reed Army Medical Center closure: Loss of 5,630 positions
  • National Naval Medical Center expansion: Gain of 2,500 positions
  • Fort Belvoir expansion: Gain of 13,000 new employees at Fort Belvoir
  • Mark Center opening: Gain of 6,400 employees at this Fort Belvoir satellite annex
  • Crystal City closures: Loss of 13,000 employees from this Arlington, Va. neighborhood
  • Fort Meade expansion: gain of almost 6,000 jobs
  • Aberdeen Proving Ground expansion: 8,500 new personnel

This massive movement of employees, vehicles, transit passengers, and families leaves business owners, policymakers, local government officials, and residents feeling the effects. For example, the Crystal City Business Improvement District largely exists because of BRAC 2005; the group, which has a multi-million dollar budget, was formed by Arlington County to ensure that the neighborhood would remain active after the departure of such a huge segment of its workforce.

The effects of the BRAC projects can be confusing: for every depressing economic projection spawned by a BRAC closure, there's another one touting BRAC's vast opportunities -- see also Mayor Vince Gray’s plans for economic development at the massive Walter Reed compound. For every traffic report predicting huge tie-ups near new installations, there are alternative reports debunking that wisdom. For every attempt to delay a pending BRAC move, there are detractors pointing to the federal law requiring it.

The deadline for the majority of the BRAC moves affecting D.C. area bases is September 15, 2011.

View BRAC Locations in D.C. in a larger map
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