0

Fort closings costing more, still on track for 2011

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The closure of Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem is costing significantly more than expected, but both bases are being shut down on schedule, officials say.

In the 2008 Base Realignment and Closure budget request, the U.S. Department of Defense asked for 48 percent more than was originally projected, according to the United States Government Office of Accountability.

The department had estimated, in 2005, that the cost would come out to about $21 billion. Now, however, it looks like the budget needs to be adjusted to about $31 billion, according to the GAO report given to Congress.

The majority of the cost is credited to construction, which the department now realizes is necessary for the massive military shuffle.

At the two Atlanta-area military installations, both slated to be shut down by September 2011, there were unforeseen construction needs, which have driven up the cost of closing the bases, said BRAC Officer Ryan Glynn.

The command staff at Fort McPherson, for example, is scheduled to move to Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2011, Glynn said. Originally, the command staff was going to be housed in a collection of existing buildings, but the buildings are located all over the military installation.

"The increase is due to the fact that they weren't envisioning a new facility, originally," Glynn said. "It was determined we'd need to build one building, rather than have people scattered all over."

George Carlisle, BRAC base transition coordinator for Fort McPherson, said the increased costs are almost entirely due to the needed construction at the final location for the forces. Other costs haven't changed since original estimates.

"The cost of moving people and moving equipment hasn't changed," he said.

Glynn, who has worked for BRAC on a number of base closures and base realignments, said the process at the south-metro forts is going smoothly, and the increased costs isn't unheard of.

"We haven't seen any major issues," he said. "These have been normal proceedings up to date."

The GAO report points out, though, that this round of base closures and realignments is, "the biggest, most complex, and costliest BRAC round ever, in part because, unlike previous rounds, the Secretary of Defense viewed the 2005 round as an opportunity, not only to achieve savings, but also to assist in transforming the department."

The current BRAC, which began in 2005, is the Defense Department's fifth.

Despite the increased costs, local BRAC officials do not expect funds to fall short. Carlisle and Glynn both expect to have the funds available for the base closures, despite increased costs.

"From our perspective," Carlisle said, "programming and budgeting of the funds for the appropriate years" is "proceeding appropriately."

Currently, the Fort Bragg building is being designed, and construction is expected to begin in 2009, and be completed by late 2010 or early 2011. The soldiers will move into the building in 2011, Carlisle said.

Glynn expects to begin detailed discussions of the transfer of Fort McPherson to the Local Redevelopment Authority in about 12 months. Negotiations about the transfer of Fort Gillem could begin as early as March 2008.