Military Base Closures: A Historical Review from 1988 to 1995

CRS Report for Congress
Military Base Closures:
A Historical Review from 1988 to 1995
Updated October 18, 2004
David E. Lockwood
Specialist in U.S. Foreign Policy and National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
George Siehl
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

Military Base Closures:
A Historical Review from 1988 to 1995
The United States has experienced difficulty in closing military bases to match
the requirements of downsized forces with changed composition. During the decade
of the 1980s, major military base closures were seriously hampered by procedural
requirements established by Congress, to the point that none occurred. The mismatch
between real estate assets and defense requirements grew with the military
downsizing that began late in the Reagan Administration and continued under
Presidents George H. W. Bush and Clinton.
After several legislative efforts to break the deadlock had failed, Congress
established a new base closure procedure in P.L. 100-526, enacted October 24, 1988.
The statute provided for a bipartisan commission, appointed by the Secretary of
Defense, to make recommendations to Congress on closures and realignments to be
voted down or accepted as a whole. The process was successfully implemented, but
produced complaints of partisanship in selecting bases for closure. P.L. 101-510,
enacted November 5, 1990, provided new authority for additional base closure
recommendations by a series of presidentially appointed commissions (with the
advice and consent of the Senate), commonly called Base Realignment and Closure
(BRAC) commissions. These commissions were to operate in 1991, 1993, and 1995,
after which the authority of the final base closure commission would end.
The four commissions recommended closure of 98 major bases and hundreds
of smaller installations, and the realignment of many other bases and facilities. These
recommendations were estimated to be implemented and completed by the year 2001.
The Department of Defense at one time estimated savings of about $57 billion over

20 years.

At the community level, in turn, implementation of the base closure process
commenced. Congress has amended the base closure legislation several times to
protect and assist communities as they adjust to the social and economic stress
caused by the loss of military installations. Many, but by no means all, communities
appeared to be succeeding in local efforts to replace defense jobs and find new uses
for former military lands and buildings.
After expiration of the authorizing legislation, a number of influential leaders
recommended establishment of a new commission and the closure of additional bases
and facilities. These advocates included the chairman of the 1995 commission, Alan
Dixon, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman
John Shalikashvili. In Congress, many felt that infrastructure costs diverted money
from modernization and sapped the readiness of America’s armed forces. Against
these pressures to cut military real estate further was caution concerning further
military cuts, as well as the traditional reluctance of Senators and Representatives to
lose federal jobs and disrupt communities in their state or district.
Subsequently, new authorizing legislation by the Congress was required to
reconstitute base closure and realignment through the commission approach.

In troduction ......................................................1
Report of 1988 Base Closure Commission..............................4
Creation of 1991 Base Closure Commission.............................5
Secretary of Defense Cheney’s Proposed List........................7
1991 Base Closure Commission’s Report...............................7
Congressional Actions on 1991 Recommendations.......................8
Environmental and Other Considerations..............................10
Creation of 1993 Base Closure Commission............................10
Other Significant Developments (1993-1994)...........................11
Supreme Court Decision on Judicial Review.......................11
Changes in Statutory Law......................................11
Reports on Base Closure Implementation..........................12
1994 Elections and the 104th Congress................................13
Creation of 1995 Base Closure Commission............................13
Actions in 1995..................................................14
Subsequent Closure Activity........................................16

Military Base Closures:
A Historical Review from 1988 to 1995
This report1 discusses a concerted effort to close unneeded military bases as part
of wide-ranging efforts during the 1980s and 1990s to balance the budget. This effort
had been supported by a broad consensus that, among the approximately 3,800
military bases (1990 est.) in the United States, many could be closed without
significant detrimental effect to national security. This view became more
pronounced in the wake of the Soviet Union’s breakup and collapse of the Warsaw
Pact military threat. While most analysts agreed that the Department of Defense’s
(DOD’s) base structure was larger than necessary to meet the department’s needs,
there were differences concerning which, if any, additional bases should be closed,
at what speed, and what criteria should be used for making those decisions.
Significantly, the impact of a specific base closing would be keenly felt in one
Member’s state or district, but benefits in terms of savings could be spread widely
among all citizens and taxpayers. In combination, these two factors — (1) the
narrowly felt pain from an individual base closing and (2) the widely diffused
benefits from closing many bases to save taxpayer funds — produced strong
incentives for coalitions of Members of Congress to bargain in the legislative process
to protect many bases from closure.2
A statutory provision enacted by Congress in 1977 (10 U.S.C. § 2687), required
procedures which made closing a base very difficult, and no major bases were closed
between 1977 and 1991. During the late 1980s, several bills were introduced in
Congress to relax the statutory restrictions. The first proposal that actually broke the
deadlock was the elaborate scheme prescribed by the Defense Authorization
Amendments and Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-526; 102
Stat. 2623, at 2627). The procedure established under that statute — its principal

1 This report was written by George Siehl, formerly a Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
at CRS. Mr. Siehl has since retired, but the other listed author updated the report and is
available to answer questions concerning its contents. Clinton T. Brass, Analyst in
American National Government at CRS, contributed to the updated report.
2 For example, one scholar expressed his view that
... in 1997, the Secretary of Defense and every member of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff proposed shutting down a number of obsolete military bases. They were
opposed by a congressional coalition of legislators whose districts included the
various bases. The members of this coalition acted to retain each other’s military
installations, at the expense of taxpayers in districts who would not
See Harvey S. Rosen, Public Finance, 5 ed. (Boston: Irwin/McGraw Hill, 1999), p. 121.

innovations were to rely on the services of an independent commission and a fast
track, no-amendment vote — proved so successful that a later statute, the Defense
Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990 (Title XXIX of P.L. 101-510; 104 Stat.
1485, at 1808), created three subsequent commissions. This occurred notwithstanding
the arguments of some Members against the legislation on grounds that base closings
were, in fact, occurring without the legislation, and that the legislation was an
abdication of congressional responsibilities, under the Constitution, to the executive
branch. 3
A major reason for the complex procedures in the 1988 and 1990 statutes was
the congressional concern that DOD might close, or not close, bases for political
reasons. In the past, high-level representatives of the Defense Department, in
soliciting congressional support for favored programs, reportedly might imply that
if a Member of Congress voted against the program, a base might be closed in the
Member’s district. For example, Representative Richard K. Armey stated:
The fact is, unfortunate as it is, that historically base closings have been used as
a point of leverage by administrations, Republican and Democratic
administrations, as political leverage over and above Members of Congress to4
encourage them to vote in a manner that the administration would like.
The 1977 measure, P.L. 95-92, provided a safeguard against arbitrary closure;
it required the Secretary of Defense to submit a request for closure or realignment as
part of the annual appropriations request; the request was to be accompanied by
evaluations of the fiscal, local economic, budgetary, environmental, strategic, and
operational consequences of closure or realignment. To whatever extent concerns
about politically biased closures were well-founded, it was clear that a workable
legislative remedy must be insulated from political considerations. Thus, the 1988
and 1990 statutes provided for the creation of bipartisan commissions and set forth
complicated procedures to insulate realignment and closure recommendations from
politics (including recommendations based on specified criteria, with adequate
justification), avoid potential vote-trading that could undermine chances for change,
and also accomplish the legislation’s substantive goal of saving funds.
Among other things, the 1990 version of the law provided for three successive,
eight-member commissions that would operate in 1991, 1993, and 1995, with all
eight members of each commission appointed by the President, by and with the
advice and consent of the Senate.5 The President was also given authority to

3 See Rep. Gillespie V. (Sonny) Montgomery, remarks in the House, Congressional Record,
vol. 134, Jul. 7, 1988, p. 17060, and Rep. Jack B. Brooks, remarks in the House,
Congressional Record, p. 17063.
4 Rep. Richard K. Armey, remarks in the House, Congressional Record, vol. 134, July 7,

1988, p. 17072.

5 An amended version of the BRAC statute (P.L. 107-107; 115 Stat. 1342) is being used to
govern the “2005 round.” For more information on changes to the statute (e.g., retaining the
Senate confirmation requirement for the President’s appointees and increasing the
commission’s size from eight to nine members) and current developments, see CRS Report

designate each commission’s chairman. When selecting the commission members,
the statute stated that the President “should consult” with the Speaker of the House
of Representatives concerning the appointment of two members, the majority leader
of the Senate concerning the appointment of two members, and each of the minority
leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, concerning the
appointment of one member (for a total of six consultations). This framework did
not explicitly require that the commission be composed of equal numbers of
Democrats and Republicans.
The statutes and the Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC)6 commissions
succeeded in effecting the selective closure of many military bases and the reduction
of military infrastructure. The “process” was instrumental in forcing this outcome,
since, once set in motion, closure recommendations were very difficult to stop. This
impetus resulted from the fact that overall dollar savings from the package
outweighed the “pain” associated with an individual installation closure or
Specifically, under the 1990 BRAC legislation, congressional review and action
took place after an extended and multi-tiered review and recommendation process.
DOD was required to submit its recommendations to the commission, which in turn
was required to submit its own report and recommendations, which could differ from
DOD’s recommendations, to the President. After the commission received DOD’s
recommendations, the General Accounting Office (GAO; now the Government
Accountability Office) was required to transmit a report to Congress and to the
commission analyzing DOD’s recommendations and selection process. The
President could elect to either transmit the commission’s recommendations to
Congress, with no opportunities for changing them, or disapprove the commission’s
recommendations and not submit them to Congress. If the commission’s
recommendations were disapproved by the President, the commission would be
required to revise its recommendations and resubmit them to the President. If the
President disapproved the commission’s revised recommendations, that year’s round
of the BRAC process would cease. Furthermore, the BRAC statute provided for
expedited congressional procedures to disapprove commission recommendations
regarding base realignments and closures, with a straight up or down vote and no
possibility for amending the list. Upon receiving the commission’s recommendations
from the President, Congress would need to pass a joint resolution of disapproval of
the recommendations within 45 days, or else the commission’s recommendations
would go into effect. In sum, the key elements of this process were:
!The DOD proposes, the commission disposes. The Secretary of
Defense made the initial recommendations for closure or

5 (...continued)
RL30051, Military Base Closures: Agreement on a 2005 Round, by David E. Lockwood;
CRS Report RS21822, Military Base Closures: DOD’s 2005 Internal Selection Process, by
Daniel Else and David Lockwood; and CRS Report RL32216, Military Base Closures:
Implementing the 2005 Round, by David E. Lockwood.
6 The BRAC acronym refers equally to two different word orderings: “base closure and
realignment commission” and “base realignment and closure commission.”

realignment. The commission could, and did, add to and delete from
these recommendations. Both DOD and commission proposals had
to conform with the force structure plan developed by DOD.
!The President can seek changes in commission recommendations.
No President ever challenged a commission over its
recommendations, although the law provided this opportunity. If a
deadlock had occurred over the closure list, the process would have
terminated with the President’s refusal to forward the list to
!Congress must pass a joint resolution of disapproval of the
recommendations list within 45 days, or the recommendations for
closure and realignment go into effect. This was the only action
allowed to Congress under the base closure law: a straight up or
down vote, with no changes permitted in the list of actions by the
Under the BRAC law, the Secretary of Defense was obligated to implement the
closure and realignment recommendations if Congress did not disapprove them.
Another forcing mechanism in the law was the requirement that the selected bases
close within six years from the time Congress voted upon the recommendations.
The statute further required that proceedings, information, and deliberations of
the commission be open to various chairmen and minority ranking members of
congressional committees or their designees, upon request.7 Heads of federal
departments and agencies were allowed to detail personnel to the commission, upon
the commission director’s request, and the Comptroller General was required to
provide assistance to the commission (including the detailing of GAO employees) in
accordance with an agreement with the commission.
Congress amended the BRAC laws over the years to lessen the economic and
social disruption in base closure communities. These amendments included the
transfer of personal property (such as furniture and equipment), below cost sales or
transfers of real property to communities, and technical assistance in land planning
and base reuse.
Report of 1988 Base Closure Commission
On December 29, 1988, the first base closure commission (with its 12 members
appointed by the Secretary of Defense Carlucci) issued its report. It recommended
the closure, in part or in whole, and realignment of 145 bases. The commission
projected that this would improve the effectiveness of the base structure, and would
save an estimated $693.6 million a year in base operating costs. After various
procedural requirements of the statute were met, culminating with Congress’s tacit

7 In practice, the commission stated that its activities and documentation were open to the

approval by not adopting a joint resolution of disapproval, the Secretary of Defense
was required to close or realign the listed bases by September 30, 1995. The first
base — Pease Air Force Base, NH — was closed in the spring of 1991.
One commission member, former Senator Thomas Eagleton, criticized the
cooperation of the services in the process, singling out the Navy for “stonewalling”
and “getting away with it.” In his additional views in the 1988 report, he suggested
starting with the Navy in any future base closing effort.
While the commission approach taken in the 1988 statute was generally
regarded by Congress as successful, DOD took the position that the closure of
military bases is essentially an executive branch function. Accordingly, early in
1990, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney issued another list of bases which
Congress should consider for possible closure. Representative Les Aspin of
Wisconsin, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, rejected the list as
including a disproportionate number of bases in Democratic districts, and stated that
the only fair way to develop a new list of base closures was to enact legislation
creating another commission. Such a commission was then created by P.L. 101-510,
dated November 5, 1990. The earlier commission had been disbanded after the
submission of its final report.
Creation of 1991 Base Closure Commission
As provided for by statute, the new commission consisted of eight members
appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. In selecting
individuals to be nominated for membership on the commission, the President was
directed to consult with the Speaker of the House of Representatives concerning the
appointment of two members; the majority leader of the Senate concerning the
appointment of an additional two members; and the minority leaders of the House
and Senate for one member each. As noted, the commission was to meet in 1991
and, as reconstituted, again in 1993 and 1995. Another requirement was that not
more than one-third of the personnel employed by or detailed to the commission staff
could be on detail from DOD.
The procedures provided by the 1990 law were substantially more complicated
than those set forth by its predecessor. The major difference lay in the fact that the
initial recommendations on base closures made under the new statute were to be
made by the Secretary of Defense.
For example, in the 1991 round of base closure recommendations, DOD’s
recommendations were transmitted to the commission, where they were reviewed.
The commission’s own recommendations, which differed in several important
respects from DOD’s, were then sent to the President (July 1, 1991). After his
review and approval, the President transmitted the commission’s report to Congress.
If he had not approved of the report, in whole or in part, the President would have
been obliged to explain his reasons for disapproval to both Congress and the
commission. The commission would then have transmitted to the President a revised
list of recommended closures. The procedure was, in fact, somewhat more

complicated than this description — for example, the Comptroller General was
directed to assist the commission — and there was considerably more detail set forth
in the current statute than there was in the earlier one. However, it may be said, in
general, that the changes were designed (1) to insulate the entire process even further
from political considerations, as indicated by the provisions requiring that the
commission meet only during the non-election years 1991, 1993, and 1995; and (2)
make the process more open to the public.
P.L. 101-510 included other provisions of significance to the base closure
program. For one thing, it directed the Secretary of Defense to ensure that the
environmental restoration of the closed bases took place as soon as possible.
Secondly, it specifically authorized the Secretary to provide “outplacement
assistance” to civilian employees of the Defense Department at installations being
A third important difference lay in the way overseas bases were treated. These
bases were not within the commission’s jurisdiction; their closure was an important
issue, but, presumably, not affected by the same political considerations that would
require the appointment of a bipartisan commission. The 1990 statute, nevertheless,
contained a policy statement that did not appear in the previous one (P.L. 100-526).
First, it was declared to be the “sense of Congress” that military operations at
overseas bases be terminated at the discretion of the Secretary of Defense “at the
earliest opportunity.” Secondly, it was the sense of Congress that, in providing for
termination, the Secretary of Defense “should take steps to ensure that the United
States receives, through direct payment or otherwise, consideration equal to the fair
market value of the improvements made by the United States at facilities that will be
released to host countries.” In practice, if the decision to close an overseas base was
made, there were negotiations with the host nation weighing the U.S. costs of
constructing and improving the facilities against the estimates for environmental or
other remediation required at closing. These last considerations would be under the
terms of the host nation agreement when the U.S. built or took over the facility.
Another feature of the statute was the establishment of a “base closure account,”
into which revenues generated from the sale of closing bases would be placed; the
funds could then be used to pay for the expenses associated with the relocation of
forces, such as new construction or rehabilitation of existing facilities at receiving
There were also several provisions designed to assist DOD in carrying out
Congress’ base closure policy. The 1990 statute required the Defense Department
to publish its proposed criteria for selecting bases to be closed. These proposed
criteria were included in the Federal Register for November 30, 1990. There
followed a period during which public comments were received, and then on
February 15, 1991, the final criteria, which contained a few changes, were published.
These final criteria were subject to congressional disapproval by joint resolution until
March 15, 1991, but no such resolution was adopted. The language included in the
Federal Register stated that, in selecting military installations for closure or
realignment, DOD was to consider the following: military value, return on
investment, and impact.

Military Value
!Current and future mission requirements and the impact on
operational readiness of the Department of Defense’s total force.
!Availability and condition of land, facilities and associated airspace
at both the existing and potential receiving locations.
!Ability to accommodate contingency, mobilization, and future total
force requirements at both the existing and potential receiving
!Cost and manpower implications.
Return on Investment
!Extent and timing of potential costs and savings, including the
number of years, beginning with the date of completion of the
closure or realignment, for the savings to exceed the cost.
!Economic impact on communities.
!Ability of both the existing and potential receiving communities’
infrastructure to support forces, missions, and personnel.
!Environmental impact.
Secretary of Defense Cheney’s Proposed List
After the publication of these criteria, the Secretary of Defense, on April 12,
1991, announced a new list of proposed base closures. Analysts on the staff of the
House Armed Services Committee estimated that the closings would eliminate
approximately 70,000 military and civilian jobs by 1997, or 3.3% of the military’s
2.1 million personnel. A number of Senators and Congressmen objected to proposed
closures in their various jurisdictions, but in general Congress appeared to find the
list more acceptable than the one announced by Secretary Cheney in January 1990.
Representative Aspin stated that the list “at first glance appears to be fair.” On the
other hand, Representative Joseph Moakley of Massachusetts concluded that: “It
almost looks like the Democratic strongholds have been hit the worst.” Secretary
Cheney, claiming that he did not know how many bases were in Democratic and how
many in Republican districts, asserted that: “There is nothing to be gained by a
secretary of defense trying to play base closings for some political purpose.”
1991 Base Closure Commission’s Report
The second phase in the base closure process was then initiated, with the
commission holding a number of statutorily mandated public hearings in various
parts of the country. Many Members of Congress, as well as other witnesses,
testified regarding the process, merits, and impacts of the possible closings. Press
accounts of commission hearings indicated that much of the testimony by Members

of Congress objected to a specific, individual closure. The commission report noted
that “Community and elected leaders were tireless advocates for their military
installations.” One objection was that there was too little time, and too little
independent expertise in the commission, to permit a complete evaluation of DOD’s
recommendations. However, the commission chairman, James Courter (a former
Republican representative from New Jersey), indicated that complying with the July
1 deadline was not a problem. He had also stated, on several occasions, that the
commission was an independent body, and that it would not rubber-stamp DOD’s
On May 31, 1991, the commission issued a list of “preliminary candidates for
base closure.” Subsequently, after concluding its deliberations, the commission
released its “final” list of 82 proposed closures and realignments on July 1, 1991. In
its recommendations, the 1991 base commission largely accepted the list proposed
by Secretary of Defense Cheney. However, it made a few significant changes — the
most important involving six bases selected by DOD for closure. The commission
recommended that Ft. Chaffee (AR) and Ft. Dix (NJ) be realigned, and that Fort
McClellan (AL), Naval Training Center Orlando (FL), Naval Air Station Whidbey
Island (WA), and Moody Air Force Base (GA), remain open.
An important aspect of the base closure statute was the mandated role for GAO.
GAO issued a report, dated May 1991, containing detailed comments about the
various methods used by DOD as a basis for its recommendations. The report,
Military Bases: Observations on the Analyses Supporting Proposed Closures and
Realignments, also contained important information about individual bases. The
report is too lengthy to permit an adequate summary here, but it is noteworthy that
(1) the Army’s recommendations were found by GAO to be “well supported”; (2) in
the case of the Air Force, GAO found generally that “the rationale was adequately
supported by documentation”; and (3) as regards the Navy, GAO found that it used
“inadequate documentation,” so that “GAO was unable to independently evaluate the
relative military value of the bases considered.”
Congressional Actions
on 1991 Recommendations
On July 10, 1991, President George Bush approved the independent
commission’s recommendations for closure, in compliance with the procedures
prescribed by law, and transmitted them to Congress. The closings proposed by the
commission would, by its estimate, cost $4.1 billion from 1992 to 1997, but would
save about $1.5 billion a year thereafter. The statute gave Congress 45 days to
overturn the recommendations by joint resolution. No such action took place.
Many Members of Congress expressed concern over the impact of new closures
on the lives of people in their districts and states. Concern with the possibility of
widespread unemployment in certain affected communities and with the validity of
military valuations of competing bases prompted calls for reversal of commission
decisions in a number of specific cases. Members stated these and other arguments
during House floor debate (see the Congressional Record of July 30, 1991).

Recommendations to close the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Naval Station and
Loring Air Force Base in Maine drew extended comment from Members. A more
broadly based reaction on Capitol Hill was to seek increased funding for programs
which would provide an economic “safety net” for those adversely affected by
closures. 8
Earlier, on July 23, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military
Installations and Facilities voted to support the recommendations of the Defense Base
Closure and Realignment Commission. Before the vote, the subcommittee heard
testimony from several Members of Congress in opposition to the commission’s
recommendations. In general, they objected to the lack of coordination between the
three military departments in making their recommendations to the commission.
There were also specific complaints that the closure of certain medical facilities
would result in inconvenience and higher medical costs to persons currently using
those facilities. Most of these concerns and examples would be raised again in floor
debate the following week.
On July 24, 1991, the House Committee on Armed Services favorably adopted
the report of its subcommittee, and endorsed the commission’s recommendations.
On July 30, by a vote of 60 to 364, the House rejected a resolution disapproving (and,
thereby, tacitly approving) the recommendations of the commission. The Senate then
had no need to consider their resolution of disapproval, as rejection of the
commission’s recommendations required both bodies to agree to override.
The Senate 1992 Defense Authorization bill, S. 1507, contained several
provisions that would have facilitated transfers of real property at closing bases to
local communities. These provisions were contained in the Johnston-Breaux
amendment, which the Senate had adopted after its introduction on the floor. The
amendment would have made two major changes in existing law: (1) it would have
provided that if a community near a closed base was significantly harmed, local
governments would have first priority in obtaining excess property located there,
although for the past forty years other federal agencies have been given this priority
by statute; (2) it would have provided that these recipients would be offered the
property at no cost, although in the past such transfers have generally been made on
a reimbursable basis. These provisions were deleted in conference, however. The
conference report, H.Rept. 102-311, acknowledged the existing obstacles to base
reuse, but found that the proposed changes raised other problems: loss of revenue
from property sales, displacement of existing land allocation priorities, and conflicts
with environmental laws, among others. The committees of jurisdiction had not
considered the changes, the report said, but added that the House of Representatives
pledged to review the matters in 1992.
The conferees clarified the congressional intent that civil works, river and
harbor projects, and other activities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, were to be
excluded from the base closure program.

8 See CRS Report 96-562, Military Base Closures Since 1988: Status and Employment
Changes at the Community and State Level, by George H. Siehl and Edward Knight, at
[ ].

Environmental and Other Considerations
The impending closure of substantial numbers of bases raised several difficult
environmental problems. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as “Superfund,” the U.S.
Government could not transfer land outside federal ownership until it agreed that all
remedial action necessary to protect human health and the environment had been
taken. Since the communities adjoining bases programmed for closure generally
wish to obtain the land quickly, while the decontamination process found necessary
to restore the environment could be time-consuming, serious conflicts between the
interests of economic development and the interests of environmental restoration
could occur.
There have been many federal environmental statutes enacted in recent years,
and there are also a number of relevant state laws. In general, Congress and the
courts have made it fairly clear that federal facilities must comply with state and local
environmental requirements, but until recently it was not entirely clear that state
authorities could impose penalties on federal facilities that were in violation. This
problem was addressed by the Federal Facilities Compliance Act, which specifically
provides that states and municipalities have this authority.
As the base closure program accelerated, it became increasingly important to
convert the bases to nonmilitary use as expeditiously as possible. It has been DOD
policy to negotiate with a local organization, often referred to as a “reuse committee,”
that represents the various community interests, but at some bases the competing
cities and counties have found themselves unable to cooperate even to the extent of
forming such an organization. In one case, where the base was included on the 1988
list, and the closure actually took place in 1992, lawsuits among local jurisdictions
delayed implementation of a reuse plan until February 1995.
Creation of 1993 Base Closure Commission
On January 5, 1993, President Bush submitted a list of eight nominees for
appointment to a newly reconstituted Base Closure and Realignment Commission.
He selected James Courter, the 1991 commission chairman, to be head of the new
group. These were subsequently confirmed by the Senate. The 1993 commission,
after reviewing DOD’s list of recommended closures (submitted on March 12, 1993)
and holding extensive public hearings, recommended closing 130 bases and
realigning 45 others. Congress acceded to the commission’s recommendations by
declining to pass a joint resolution of disapproval. These actions were expected to
result in savings of approximately $4 billion between FY1994 and FY1999, after
one-time closure costs of approximately $7 billion, and additional annual savings in
the range of $2.3 billion thereafter.

Other Significant Developments (1993-1994)
Supreme Court Decision on Judicial Review
On May 23, 1994, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that decisions to
close military bases were not subject to judicial review. Chief Justice Rehnquist,
writing the opinion of the Court, held that although the Administrative Procedure Act
provides for judicial review of a “final agency action,” the President was not an
agency within the meaning of that statute, and his decisions were therefore not
reviewable. In the lower court decision which the Supreme Court reversed, it was
suggested that the President’s authority to close bases was limited to those situations
where there had been “compliance with statutory procedures” by the Secretary of
Defense and the base closure commission. Attorneys arguing for judicial review
contended that “the commission used improper criteria, failed to place certain
information in the record until after the close of public hearings, and held closed
meetings with the Navy.” The Supreme Court, was not, however convinced by these
arguments, and held that “The President’s authority to act is not contingent on the
secretary’s and commission’s fulfillment of all the procedural requirements imposed
on them by the 1990 [base closure] act.”
In a concurring opinion, Justice Souter, joined by three other justices, examined
the legislative history of the base closure statute and made specific reference to the
fact that “Congress was intimately familiar with repeated, unsuccessful, efforts to
close military bases in a rational and timely manner.” Accordingly, Congress
adopted the complicated procedures of the base closure act to “bind its hands from
untying a package of [base closures].” Consequently, “Congress did not mean the
courts to have any such power through judicial review.” On June 23, 1994, Senator
Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who had argued unsuccessfully in the Supreme Court
that base closure decisions were subject to judicial review, introduced an amendment
to the defense authorization act which would have provided for such review in
certain cases where there was evidence of “fraudulent concealment” of information
relevant to a particular decision. The amendment was rejected by a tabling motion,
after debate. Opponents argued, among other things, that the amendment would open
a “Pandora’s box,” in which virtually all aggrieved communities would initiate
Changes in Statutory Law
As the process of closure and realignment took place, generally in accordance
with announced schedules, several changes in statutory procedure were enacted in
FY1994 and FY1995 defense authorization bills — as well as in other bills. Notable
among these was the Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless
Assistance Act of 1994 (PL 103-421). It reduced the scope of the McKinney
Homeless Assistance Act provision that gave organizations that served the homeless
a priority claim to federal property that was declared surplus. Under the new law,
local communities would exercise a greater degree of influence and control over
disposition of surplus property through their redevelopment planning process. The
process included consideration of homeless needs in the community, and that portion
of the reuse plan was subject to review by the Secretary of Housing and Urban

Development. Additional details on this aspect of base reuse are found in the
Department of Housing and Urban Development March 1966 publication, Guidebook
on Military Base Reuse and Homeless Assistance.
Reports on Base Closure Implementation
An October 1994 report, Uncovering the Shell Game: Why Military Facilities
Don’t Stay Closed, issued by Business Executives for National Security, a
Washington, DC, independent study group, claimed that of the 67 major bases
scheduled to be closed, 26 had reopened, or else were never closed in the first place.
As a result, the report went on to state, the substantial savings originally envisaged
were not achieved. DOD argued that some of the figures used in the report were
wrong. For example, in the case of Carswell AFB, which the Air Force had intended
to close, the BENS report stated that maintenance of the base cost an annual $197
million. On the other hand, DOD claimed that the costs were only $15 million. The
BENS report, also, noted that after Carswell was closed by the Air Force, it was
reopened by the Navy as the Fort Worth Naval Air Station. DOD argued that the
Navy achieved savings through this action by consolidating its activities previously
located at Detroit, Memphis, and Dallas, and closing those stations.
In November 1994, GAO’s report Military Bases: Reuse Plans for Selected
Bases Closed in 1988 and 1991, analyzed reuse plans of 37 major closed military
bases. It pointed out that although DOD originally estimated it would realize $4.1
billion in property sales revenue from closed bases, in 1994 the estimate was reduced
to $1.2 billion. The most important reason for this change, according to the report,
was that:
Consistent with federal regulations, the vast majority of the disposed property is
being retained by DOD or transferred to other federal agencies and states and
localities at no cost.
The GAO report noted that widespread use of no-cost transfers was greatly
facilitated by the enactment of provisions in the FY1994 DOD authorization act,
which authorized such transfers where the property was to be used for economic
development. When the base closure program was initiated in 1988, considerable
emphasis was placed on the substantial revenues to be deposited in the base closure
account from the sale of surplus bases. However, this emphasis shifted to assisting
the economic recovery of communities affected by a closure. This was evidenced by
the provisions adopted in the FY1994 DOD authorization act (Title XXIX of PL 103-
160). The major impact was probably from section 2903, which provided for a
transfer of real property to a redevelopment authority “for consideration at or below
the estimated fair market value,” but other provisions were part of the same general
scheme. Section 2904 provided for “expedited determination of transferability of
excess property;” and section 2906 provided for the outleasing of property at bases
to be closed, pending final disposition.
The GAO report discussed other aspects of the base closure program, such as
the large amounts of military land that were severely contaminated. Apart from
decontamination, other types of improvement might be found necessary: for instance,
sewage and electrical systems might require upgrading and buildings might have to

be brought into compliance with local, state, and federal standards. Finally, the
report indicated that of the property remaining in federal ownership, 50% would go
to the Fish and Wildlife Service, 22% to the Bureau of Land Management, and 24%
would remain with the Department of Defense. Smaller acreages would go to the
Bureau of Prisons, NASA, and the National Park Service.
1994 Elections and the 104th Congress
While the basic statutory scheme for determining which installations were to be
closed was generally the same as it was in 1990, the 104th Congress came under
Republican control. Several issues associated with base closure, including costs and
savings, were included on the oversight plan filed by the House National Security
Committee at the start of the new Congress, holding out the possibility of changes.
An important development took place on January 26, 1995, when Secretary of
Defense William J. Perry, addressing the nation’s mayors, stated that the final round
of closings “will not be as large as the last one.” He also commented, in connection
with the base closure program, that “we have closed all of the bases that were
relatively easy to close,” but that DOD still “need(s) to close more bases from the
point of view of saving infrastructure...”
Creation of 1995 Base Closure Commission
Former Senator Alan Dixon of Illinois was nominated and confirmed as
chairman of the 1995 commission in October 1994, before the 103rd Congress
On February 7, 1995, President Clinton announced the following appointments
to the final Base Realignment and Closure Commission authorized by P.L. 101-510:
Al Cornella, a Vietnam veteran who runs a refrigeration business in Rapid City,
Rebecca G. Cox, a vice-president of Continental Airlines who, during the Reagan
Administration was director of the White House Office of Public Liaison and
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Public Affairs;
Retired Air Force Gen. J.B. Davis, a former combat fighter pilot who became
Chief of Staff at Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers, Europe;
S. Lee Kling, a former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee
who is chairman of the board of Kling Rechter & Co., a merchant banking
company in Missouri;
Retired Rear Admiral Benjamin F. Montoya. president of Public Service Co. of
New Mexico;
Wendi L. Steele, who served in 1991 as Senate liaison to the Commission;

Michael P. W. Stone, former Secretary of the Army, who is a director of BEI
Electronics in San Francisco. This nomination was subsequently withdrawn.
Retired Army Major General Josue Robles, Jr., was later nominated to replace
These nominees were confirmed by the Senate on March 2, 1995. Earlier, on
December 1, 1994, President Clinton submitted a “dummy” list of commissioners,
including Deputy Defense Secretary John Deutch. This met the requirement for
submission of a list of candidates prior to the January 3 deadline set by law, and
allowed the White House and new Republican majority in Congress to consider other
names, later.
Actions in 1995
The Department of Defense on February 28, 1995 released the Base Closure and
Realignment Report setting out proposed actions affecting 146 military installations
for the consideration of the BRAC Commission. Thirty-three major bases were listed
for closure, and 34,200 civilian jobs would be lost under the recommendations.
Although former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin had suggested that the 1995 BRAC
round would be “the mother of all base closure rounds,” the actual recommendations
touched fewer bases than did the 1993 round. Secretary Perry stated in his press
conference of February 28 that reduction of infrastructure significantly lagged
personnel reduction, 21% versus 33% through the first three closure rounds. DOD
estimated aggregated savings of about $57 billion over 20 years, from this and the
previous three rounds.
On May 10, the commission added 31 installations to the list of bases to be
considered for possible closure or realignment. The chairman emphasized that
inclusion of a base on the list did not mean the base would close or be realigned, but
would allow a fairer assessment of closure candidates. Indeed, in 1993, the
commission added 70 bases for further consideration, but, in the end, made few final
recommendations that differed from the DOD list. Nevertheless, the commission’s
views seemed somewhat different from DOD’s. For example, the DOD list included
only one major shipyard (Long Beach, California) for closure, but the commission
added Portsmouth shipyard in Kittery, Maine for consideration. The commission
also added Air Force depots at McClellan AFB, California and Kelly AFB, Texas.
The latter additions would prove to be more momentous.
During May and June — and prior to its final vote on June 22 — the
commission held numerous regional hearings. One of the commissioners stated that
between 70 and 80 installations had been visited. In one major difference, although
the Air Force had recommended retaining all five maintenance depots, with a reduced
workload, the commission put all the depots on a list to be considered for possible
closure or realignment.
On June 22, the commission began its final vote, and announced its first set of
recommendations on closures and realignments, after reviewing 40% of the
recommendations submitted by DOD. It made substantial changes in several of the

Air Force recommendations: the Air Force had wanted to close Rome Laboratory,
NY, but the commission voted to keep it open. The Air Force also wished to retain
all five of its maintenance depots while reducing their workloads, but under the
commission’s plan, both Kelly AFB, TX, and McClellan AFB, CA, would be
virtually closed. Kelly itself would remain open, although the depot would close;
McClellan would close entirely. A number of Navy laboratories were also scheduled
to be closed.
On June 30, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission sent its
1995 Report to the President to President Clinton. The report recommended the
closure of 79 bases (including 28 major ones), the realignment of 26 bases (including
21 major ones), and a number of disestablishments or relocations. Chairman Dixon
stated that implementing these actions would save $19.3 billion over 20 years, but
would cost an estimated 94 thousand jobs. The biggest closures would be McClellan
AFB, CA, Long Beach Naval Shipyard, CA, and Fort McClellan, AL. The two
California senators urged President Clinton to reject the commission’s
recommendations. On the other hand, several Republican congressmen stated that
rejection of the report would impair the integrity of the base closure process (see, for
example, CQ, July 1, 1995, pp. 1939-1941); no report had been rejected since the
base closure program was initiated in 1988. The 1995 report, however, was the first
in which the commission had recommended more savings than those proposed by the
On July 13, President Clinton approved the commission’s report, as submitted.
In his transmittal message to Congress, he expressed serious reservations because of
the severe economic impact that would be suffered by California and Texas. He
stated that California had already suffered disproportionately by bearing about half
the defense job losses in the three previous rounds, and the latest recommendations
would also result in California losing about half the jobs, although it was responsible
for only about 15% of the military work force. In its initial report to the commission,
the Defense Department had strongly opposed the closing of McClellan Air Force
Base, Sacramento, Ca., and Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio, Tx., for the reason
that closure would disrupt Air Force operations and undermine the Air Force’s ability
to carry out some of its modernization programs.
In his July 13, 1995 transmittal message Clinton defended privatization. He said
he would view as a violation of the base closure law any effort by Congress to restrict
privatization after approving the base closure package. Representative James V.
Hansen stated a contrary view in remarks contained in H.Rept. 104-220, which
accompanied the resolution of disapproval, H.J.Res. 102. He said, in part, “the
President’s direction to ‘privatize-in-place,’ and the Pentagon’s plan for
implementation, appear to be in violation of several sections of current law.”
On July 26, the House National Security Committee rejected, by a vote of 43-10,
a resolution introduced by Representative Frank Tejeda (D., Tx.) that would have
overturned the commission’s base closure and realignment recommendations. On
September 8, the House rejected the resolution of disapproval by a vote of 345-75.
The administration plan for privatizing some of the operations at Kelly AFB, Texas,
and McClellan AFB, California was a point of controversy.

President Clinton told Kelly AFB workers in an October 17, 1996 speech that,
“for five more years, Kelly will keep the jobs that would be here if closure had not
been recommended, and even eight years from now, more than two-thirds of Kelly’s
jobs will still be here.” Employment at Kelly when it was recommended for closure
was about 16,000.
At McClellan AFB, some 8,700 of the 11,000 jobs were to be protected for the
next five years, after which privatization would take place, with the expectation that
as many as 4,300 jobs will shift to non-government employers, according to DOD
estimates. In 1996, the Air Force identified work at the two depots to be bid
competitively as part of the privatization effort.
Critics contended that the two depots were recommended for closure by the
1995 BRAC Commission because the five Air Force depots had excess capacity, and
that the closures would shift work so as to more fully utilize the capacity of the
remaining open depots. Continued operation with privatization, they contended,
would continue the overcapacity and undercut the commission’s projected savings
from closure of McClellan and Kelly.
Subsequent Closure Activity
In conformance with the authorizing statute, by December 31, 1995, the
commission completed its mission and went out of existence. Creation of a new
BRAC commission would require new authorizing legislation by Congress.
The process of closing previously selected military bases continued. Congress
amended the base closing statute a number of times in order to help local
communities shift quickly to new economic uses of the land and resources left
behind. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY1996 (P.L. 104-106), for
instance, added several base closure provisions which addressed such subjects as
environmental remediation, the lease back of property to the federal government, and
the performance of police and similar services at closed installations. Additional
changes were contained in the FY1997 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L.

104-201): principally, bases from the 1988 closure round were made eligible for9

several provisions available for bases closed under later rounds..
The RAND National Defense Research Institute has also studied the impact of
base closures, concentrating on several non-metropolitan communities in California.
Their 1996 report, The Effects of Military Base Closures on Local Communities: A
Short-Term Perspective, concluded that “While some of the communities did indeed
suffer, the effects were not catastrophic (and) not nearly as severe as forecasted,” and,
“the burden of defense cuts falls on the individual worker or firm rather than the
community.” (p.xii)

9 More detail on the closure process and Congress’s continued role in facilitating that
process is contained in CRS Report 96-562, Military Base Closures Since 1988: Status and
Employment Changes at the Community and State Level, by George H. Siehl and Edward
Knight at [].

There is a wide variety among military bases, ranging from those with a training
mission and a high percentage of military personnel to support facilities such as
shipyards and depots staffed primarily with civilians. There are great differences in
the settings in which military installations are found, from lightly populated rural
areas to robust, economically diversified metropolitan centers. Base closure impacts
clearly differ with individual circumstances. Thus, RAND noted, “(C)losures of
major facilities such as Mare Island or Long Beach may have serious effects on the
displaced workers, but the effects on the local community are muted by the fact that
the community is embedded in a much larger economy...” (p.12)
It was clear to many observers that individual workers and firms would be
adversely affected as the base closures and realignments laid out by the four
commissions were completed. Their communities, possibly suffering at least initial
disruption, however, might gain in the long run. Emerging experience indicated that
more jobs, not less, followed many, but not all, closures.