To survive the latest round of base realignments and closures, military-centric communities will have to find ways to turn barracks and bombing ranges into something marketable
By Charles Gerena
Communities with a significant military presence tend to focus on the word "closure" during the Base Realignment and Closure process. In fact, past BRAC rounds included realignments that benefited some communities.
According to William Harvey, president of Alexandria, Va.-based Public Private Solutions Group, some existing military installations could expand in the future as a result of the 2005 BRAC process. For example, Fort Jackson in South Carolina grew in size after previous BRAC rounds, along with other locations in the Fifth District. "If you shut down a lot of [installations] that perform the same functions, that means other places are going to grow," explains Harvey.
Also, the nine-member commission evaluating the Pentagon's BRAC recommendations may decide to keep some underutilized installations open to handle future surges in military activity. One of the selection criteria for the current BRAC round is whether a site could accommodate such surges.
"You never want to squeeze all of your excess capacity out of the system," says Harvey. "You don't want to close a base down and then [be forced to] purchase that space somewhere else."
Finally, decisionmakers will have to leave room to accommodate the 70,000 soldiers and 100,000 family members and civilian employees scheduled to return home from overseas over the next few years. "That's not a huge number if you spread them out across the United States," notes Harvey. "[But we're] putting them in very specific places."
Harvey thinks the population growth rate will accelerate from 3 percent a year to 10 percent a year in selected metropolitan areas with bases. Such a rapid acceleration could be an economic boon, or it could be a boondoggle if local governments don't prepare for it. "That [growth] drives demand for housing, schools, retail, etc., outside the gates."