Construction of a new Pentagon administrative office complex in Alexandria, Va., is one of 30 projects for which the Sept. 15, 2011, deadline for completion is a tight one. (Sheila Vemmer / Staff)
Pentagon leaders say they're committed to completing all construction projects and employee moves related to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process by the September 2011 deadline, even if it costs more to do so.
Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment, told a House subcommittee Wednesday that the department is "very focused on the end game" and is committed to meeting the Sept. 15, 2011, target to complete all BRAC-related projects.
"In the past four rounds of BRAC, we have never missed a deadline. I don't want to have that record blemished on my watch," Robyn told the House Appropriations subcommittee on military construction, Veterans Affairs and related agencies.
Subcommittee Chairman Chet Edwards, D-Texas, questioned whether Defense was wasting money just to meet the congressional deadline. For instance, Defense is spending $53 million to erect temporary, modular office buildings at Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia to accommodate nearly 1,000 employees being relocated to the base until permanent construction is completed.
Robyn acknowledged that meeting the congressional deadline will come at a cost. "In some cases, that does mean spending a little bit more," she said.
However, Robyn said there are many benefits of setting and adhering to a firm deadline, such as giving affected communities the certainty they need to plan for BRAC-related moves and instilling in the department the discipline needed to make the tough decisions the changes require.
The BRAC moves will cost $35 billion, two-thirds higher than the Pentagon's original estimate of $21 billion, Robyn said. She attributed much of the increase to expanding the scope of some projects and awarding contracts for much of the work when costs for construction materials and services were at a peak in 2007 and early 2008.
The Pentagon estimates the BRAC actions will save the department $4 billion annually.
All told, the 2005 BRAC round calls for closing 24 major bases, realigning another 24 major bases and taking 765 other actions. Together, the effort will affect 125,000 military personnel at more than 800 locations.
Twenty-eight BRAC actions have been completed to date, and all others are on track to be completed before the deadline, Pentagon leaders said.
However, in 30 of the actions, at least one construction project is scheduled to be completed fewer than 90 days before the deadline. Six of these projects are of particular concern because of their size and complexity, including expansion of Fort Belvoir and construction of a new Pentagon administrative office complex in Alexandria, Va., Robyn said.