BRAC’s Joint Basing: Shotgun Marriage Proposals?

Two prime oceanfront locations have joined as a part of the Base Realignment and Closure initiative. Between Norfolk, Va., and Virginia Beach, on Virginia’s desirable Atlantic coast, are the Navy’s Little Creek amphibious base and the Army’s Fort Story.

As of Oct 1, the two became Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. According to Army sources with whom we spoke the consolidation will not impact Army units’ training, including that of its maritime watercraft. This BRAC move will not affect the Navy and its special warfare training for SEALS and explosive ordnance disposal.

So what exactly does this do?

Not much.

The consolidation of adjoining installations creates one administrative command and ideally a streamlined installation support structure.

Our guess is that in the latest BRAC round officials were scraping to find installations they could realign or close. Why not combine Little Creek and Fort Story? (Why not combine Baltimore and Washington, D.C.? Maybe Los Angeles and San Diego?) Consolidation may free up a few bodies for the CNO’s growing fleet of ships and more soldiers for the Army to aim toward Afghanistan. It is also said the realignment will save $184 million each year, but our guess is that spare change quickly will be reallocated elsewhere for a zero-sum savings.

Oct, 1 also marked the consolidation of the Army’s Fort Dix, Maguire Air Force Base and the Navy’s Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station (think Hindenburg) as Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. This is the first tri-branch base. (More accurately it is the first, “Hey, let’s take three bases and give them one awkward name, no matter how big or far part they are. We’re BRAC; we can do anything.”) The Air Force takes the lead in this case, and if you have been to Maguire or Dix in the past 10 years, it is easy to see why. The Army is now a tenant command.

As with Little Creek-Fort Story, these changes in New Jersey are all in the administration of the now-joint base – command, bus drivers, food service workers security and the like. Nothing glamorous.

All in all BRAC 2005 took 26 bases around country and consolidated then into 12 at a reported possible savings of $2 billion over 20 years. While this is admirable, each service can run through many times that dollar tally in one defense contract.

Is there a real benefit here or are we just talkin’ smoke and mirrors?

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