Communities Have Key Role in Helping Bases Control Costs

Communities can assume a critical supporting role in helping neighboring installations cope with declining budgets and workforces, said Jerry Turner, senior director with Alvarez & Marsal Public Sector Services LLC. To best aid the military, communities need to identify creative solutions that meet installations’ needs, added Turner in an interview with Defense Communities 360 about a session he led at last week’s ADC 2011 Winter Forum.

“Communities and the military should work together to come up with better ways of doing business,” he said.

If military officials choose to eliminate or outsource one or more functions in response to budget constraints, one possible solution would be for the state to set up an enterprise zone around the installation. An enterprise zone could offer qualifying businesses providing government services a waiver of many state and local taxes, allowing them to pass on the savings from the tax relief to the installation.

This approach has multiple benefits, Turner said. Outsourcing a function to the private sector would allow the military to convert a fixed mission cost to a variable one. It also would preserve some, if not all, of the jobs lost if the military decided it could save money by consolidating the function elsewhere and eliminating jobs.

He emphasized that communities need to come up with solutions on their own and propose them to the services. Local officials should take a close look at any activity on an installation that is not critical to the military’s mission and assist it in finding ways to reduce costs.

Turner cited Brooks City-Base as the product of possibly the most successful unsolicited proposal ever submitted by a defense community to one of the services. In 2002, the Air Force turned over the deed to Brooks Air Force Base to the city of San Antonio; in return, the city charged the Air Force heavily discounted lease rates for its space. The city was able to reduce the government’s base operating support costs by more than 50 percent, he said.

Another model frequently mentioned to help the military realize efficiencies is supplying municipal services to the installation. Turner pointed out, though, that there are additional services in which the community and base can collaborate; for example, payroll and procurement for items other than weapons.

Representatives from the community, including the private sector, should consider approaches that to date have been considered taboo. “With the realities of the budget, finding creative ways to make things work is what I think it’s all about,” he said.

Read the Army’s coverage of the conference session.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen

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