ANALYSIS By Walter Pincus The Washington Post
A proposal to grant the Obama administration the authority to start two new rounds of military Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) was dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, and the Government Accountability Office probably hammered the last nail in the coffin last week.
I’m not going to focus on all the federal and state horse-trading that precedes a final base-closing list or which unit goes where. Instead, let’s look at what happens once the Defense Department takes over.
Brace yourself: This is another story of uncontrolled Pentagon spending with almost no public attention.
In its latest review of the 2005 BRAC program, the largest and most complex, the GAO found that the estimated cost of $21 billion to implement the program had grown to $35 billion by Sept. 30, 2011.
That 67 percent bump “was largely due to increased construction costs” linked primarily to just 14 of the 180 projects approved in 2005, the GAO said.
But the report’s stun factor isn’t limited to the missteps in planning and calculations. It seems that no one in these cases stepped back to try a less costly path.
Take the consolidation of various National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) locations at a new campus at Fort Belvoir, Va.
A project that had been projected to cost $1.1 billion grew to a price tag of $2.6 billion. About $726 million of the increase happened because the NGA did not foresee that it would need essential support facilities, including a new technology center and data-storage warehouse of 200,000 square feet.
Also not included in initial estimates for the NGA Campus East were “costs for information technology equipment and software, internal communication cabling, and furnishings to outfit the new buildings,” according to the GAO.
A misjudgment about space also was involved in a $1.1 billion increase associated with closing Fort Monmouth, N.J., and moving its functions to Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade, both in Maryland, and to Fort Belvoir.
The biggest increase came when the Army realized, after changes had begun, that it needed an additional 750,000 square feet of construction for the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center of Excellence at Aberdeen.
One of my favorite examples is about $347 million added to the cost of realigning supply and storage facilities around the country, in part because one 20,000-square-foot request turned out to be a typo — 200,000 square feet was actually needed, requiring additional construction, according to the GAO.