Conferees Strip Language Restricting Non-BRAC Realignments
House and Senate conferees negotiating the final version of the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill dropped a provision from the House version of the legislation which would have eliminated a loophole allowing DOD to bypass statutory requirements to notify Congress when realigning a mission outside of a BRAC round.
The provision would have amended 10 U.S.C. Sec. 2687, a rarely used statute allowing base closures and realignments to be carried out when a BRAC round is not under way. Section 2687 requires the defense secretary to give Congress 60 days to review proposed actions meeting certain thresholds:
- closure of an installation at which at least 300 civilian personnel are authorized; or
- a realignment involving a reduction by more than 1,000 — or by more than 50 percent — in the number of civilians authorized at the installation.
The statute exempts, however, “a reduction in force resulting from workload adjustments, reduced personnel or funding levels, skill imbalances, or other similar causes” from the definition of a realignment. If the department were considering a realignment above the 1,000-worker threshold, for example, it might be able to sidestep the statute’s notification requirements by first reducing the workforce below 1,000 civilians, and then realigning the remaining activity.
The provision in the House version of the authorization bill would have closed that loophole by eliminating the list of exceptions.
The provision was prompted by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ recommendation in 2010 to realign Joint Forces Command. In explaining their decision to drop the language from the conference report, the conferees said they supported the need for the department to adjust force structure in tandem with workload and mission requirements. Still, the conferees said they “are concerned with the perception” that DOD may have bypassed the limitations of Section 2687 by completing a reduction in force at a defense activity and then realigning the balance of the workforce.
“The conferees believe that such a contravention of Section 2687 would be inappropriate,” they wrote.
“Activities that exceed the thresholds of Section 2687 at the time of the secretary’s decision to reorganize a particular activity should be specifically submitted in accordance with the notification process delineated in Section 2687,” the conferees concluded. In carrying out the closure of Joint Forces Command, DOD ultimately rolled back the number of civilian workers affected by the realignment and avoided the need to follow the statute.