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September 6, 2007: 

The Honorable Frank Lautenberg: 

The Honorable Robert Menendez: 

United States Senate: 

The Honorable Rush Holt: 

The Honorable Frank Pallone: 

The Honorable Jim Saxton: 

The Honorable Christopher Smith: 

House of Representatives: 

Subject: Military Base Realignments and Closures: Observations Related 
to the 2005 Round: 

This correspondence is in follow-up to our August 1, 2007, meeting to 
discuss your concerns about changes in the cost and savings estimates 
and the potential loss of expertise and experience from the closure of 
Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, among other issues, since the recommendation 
to close Fort Monmouth as part of the Department of Defense's (DOD) 
2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round became effective. As we 
discussed with you, our BRAC work since the independent Defense Base 
Closure and Realignment Commission's (the Commission) recommendations 
became effective has been done under the authority of the Comptroller 
General to conduct reviews on his own initiative[Footnote 1] and has 
focused on the implementation of realignment and closure actions. 
Consistent with our approach, we offered to briefly summarize the 
observations we made in 2005 publicly about the 2005 BRAC round, 
specifically those related to Fort Monmouth, under the authority of the 
Comptroller General to conduct reviews on his own initiative, and you 
believed this would be helpful. As such, the objective of this 
correspondence is to summarize the observations we made publicly on the 
2005 BRAC round prior to the Commission's final recommendations. We 
also agreed to review, under the Comptroller General's authority to 
conduct reviews on his own initiative, the methodology of a forthcoming 
DOD report on the transfer of technical capabilities from Fort Monmouth 
to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. 

The law authorizing the 2005 BRAC round[Footnote 2] directed us to 
independently assess DOD's process and recommendations and report by 
July 1, 2005.[Footnote 3] As such, we issued a report on that date and 
testified before the Commission twice in 2005.[Footnote 4] 
Subsequently, we have initiated several engagements under the authority 
of the Comptroller General to conduct reviews on his own initiative to 
review implementation of certain BRAC actions because of broad 
congressional interest in these actions. Some of the engagements that 
we are currently undertaking address, in part, issues that you raised. 
We will provide copies of those reports related to the closure of Fort 
Monmouth when they are completed. 

To prepare this correspondence, we relied on our report on the 2005 
BRAC decision-making process and our testimonies before the Commission 
in May 2005 and July 2005.[Footnote 5] We did not perform additional 
interviews, information gathering, or analysis to prepare this 
correspondence. We did not reevaluate or reassess our earlier findings. 
Additionally, we reviewed the Commission's final report and included 
information from that report,[Footnote 6] where applicable, to provide 
context for how the issues we previously identified were addressed by 
the Commission. We limited the scope of this correspondence to those 
issues raised in our report and testimonies on the 2005 BRAC decision- 
making process, but included updated information from our BRAC work 
issued since 2005, as appropriate. Our previous work on which this 
correspondence was based was performed in accordance with generally 
accepted government auditing standards. 

Summary: 

Prior to the Commission's final decisions in September 2005, we 
presented numerous observations about DOD's 2005 BRAC recommendations 
and decision-making process. While we found that DOD used a 
fundamentally sound overall process that was generally logical, well 
documented, and reasoned to determine its BRAC recommendations, we 
identified limitations with DOD's cost and savings estimates and 
potential human capital challenges in implementing some of the 
recommendations, among other observations. We noted that projected 
savings could be overestimated. For example, in 2005, we found that 
some of DOD's assumptions related to business process reengineering 
were not validated and the actual savings for these recommendations 
would be based on how the recommendations were implemented. Also in 
2005, we identified the potential loss of expertise and experience due 
to fewer than anticipated civilian employees moving to a gaining base 
as a potential issue for some closure and realignment actions. 

Because we drew from our past work and published documents in preparing 
this correspondence, we did not seek official comments from DOD on its 
contents, but did advise them that we were issuing this correspondence. 

Background: 

DOD has undergone four BRAC rounds since 1988 and is currently 
implementing its fifth round.[Footnote 7] In May 2005, the Secretary of 
Defense made public 222 recommendations that were estimated to generate 
net annual recurring savings of $5.5 billion beginning in fiscal year 
2012. In making its 2005 realignment and closure recommendations, DOD 
applied legally mandated selection criteria that included military 
value, costs and savings, economic impact to local communities, 
community support infrastructure, and environmental impact. BRAC 
legislation directed the Secretary of Defense in applying this criteria 
to give priority consideration to the military value over other 
criteria. In fact, military value was the primary consideration for 
making BRAC recommendations, as reported by both DOD and the 
Commission. DOD established a structured and largely sequential process 
for obtaining and analyzing data that provided an informed basis for 
identifying and evaluating realignment and closure options. DOD 
incorporated into its analytical process several key considerations 
required by BRAC legislation, including the use of certified 
data,[Footnote 8] basing its analysis on its 20-year force structure 
plan, and emphasizing its military value selection criteria. 
Additionally, the Secretary of Defense established three goals for the 
2005 BRAC round: (1) reducing excess infrastructure and producing 
savings, (2) transforming DOD by aligning the infrastructure with the 
defense strategy, and (3) fostering jointness across DOD. In our 2005 
report, we stated our belief that the recommendations overall would 
produce savings and noted that the extent of transformational and joint 
progress would vary. 

The Commission was an independent body that had the authority to change 
the Secretary's recommendations if it determined that the Secretary 
deviated substantially from the legally mandated selection criteria and 
the force structure plan. The Commission formulated its list of 
recommendations based on DOD's proposed recommendations and the 
Commission's analysis of the extent to which DOD followed the selection 
criteria and the force structure plan. For example, the Commission 
found that DOD substantially deviated from military value and two of 
the other selection criteria and the force structure plan and removed 
the proposed realignment of the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors 
Directorate and a related program manager from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, 
to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, from the recommendation that 
included the closure of Fort Monmouth. After the Commission's review in 
2005, it forwarded a list of 182 recommendations for base closures or 
realignments to the President. The Commission estimated that its 
recommendations would generate net annual recurring savings of $4.2 
billion beginning in fiscal year 2012. The Commission's recommendations 
were accepted in their entirety by the President and Congress,[Footnote 
9] became effective November 9, 2005, and constitute the set of 
recommendations that DOD was in the process of implementing at the time 
of this correspondence. 

We Made Numerous Observations about the 2005 BRAC Recommendations and 
Process: 

While we concluded that DOD used a fundamentally sound overall process, 
we also made numerous observations about the department's BRAC 
recommendations and decision-making process. On the one hand, we 
reported that DOD's decision-making process for developing its BRAC 
recommendations was generally logical, well documented, and reasoned. 
On the other hand, we also identified limitations with cost and savings 
estimates and certain human capital challenges related to the potential 
loss of experience and expertise after certain recommendations were 
implemented, among other observations. 

Limitations with Cost and Savings Estimates: 

In our assessment of DOD's 2005 BRAC round, we reported that DOD's 
decision-making process for developing its BRAC recommendations was 
generally logical, well documented, and reasoned and we stated our 
belief that the 2005 BRAC recommendations would produce savings 
overall; however, we identified some limitations with cost and savings 
estimates. As in all previous BRAC rounds, DOD used the Cost of Base 
Realignment Actions (COBRA) model to provide a standard quantitative 
approach to compare estimated costs and savings across various proposed 
recommendations. The COBRA model relies to a large extent on standard 
factors and averages but is not intended to and consequently does not 
present budget quality estimates, as we pointed out in 2005 (GAO-05- 
785, p. 242).[Footnote 10] As a result, COBRA-developed cost and 
savings estimates cannot be assumed to represent the actual costs that 
Congress will need to appropriate funds to complete implementation of 
BRAC recommendations, nor will they fully reflect the savings to be 
achieved after implementation. In other words, the costs of 
implementation identified in COBRA are likely to be different than the 
costs that DOD will incur to complete implementation. We have examined 
COBRA in the past, as well as during our review of the 2005 BRAC round, 
and found it to be a generally reasonable estimator for comparing 
potential costs and savings among alternative closure and realignment 
scenarios with the caveat that the estimates do not represent budget 
quality data. Nonetheless, we raised a number of issues related to the 
cost and savings estimates resulting from realignment and closure 
decisions including the following. 

* Reassigning military personnel could provide a false sense of 
savings. We reported that nearly half (47 percent) of the projected net 
annual recurring savings from DOD's BRAC recommendations were 
associated with eliminating positions currently held by military 
personnel. However, rather than reducing end strength levels, DOD 
intended to reassign or shift these personnel to other areas, which may 
enhance capabilities in these other areas, but also limits dollar 
savings available outside of the personnel accounts for other uses. 
Although we agree that transferring personnel to other positions may 
enhance capabilities and allows DOD to redirect freed-up resources to 
another area of need, we do not believe that such transfers produce a 
tangible dollar savings that DOD can apply to fund other defense 
priorities outside the military personnel accounts because these 
personnel will remain in the end strength (GAO-05-785, p. 22-23). The 
Commission concurred with our position and rejected the closure of 
Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, in part because the Commission 
believed that the closure would result in a cost increase and not a 
savings. The Commission stated their belief that savings were unlikely 
because the Air Force planned to use the positions for other missions, 
meaning the incumbents would remain in the Air Force continuing to draw 
salaries and benefits (Commission report, p. 160). In contrast, DOD 
considers military personnel reductions attributable to BRAC 
recommendations as savings because the reductions in military personnel 
allow DOD to reapply these military personnel to support new 
capabilities and to improve operational efficiencies. We would note 
that the counting of "savings" in this way is a long-standing 
disagreement between DOD and us. 

* Magnitude of savings from business process reengineering efforts was 
uncertain. About $500 million, or about 9 percent, of the projected net 
annual recurring savings from DOD's proposed recommendations was based 
on business process reengineering efforts, but the expected efficiency 
gains from these recommendations were based on assumptions that were 
subject to some uncertainty and had not been validated. We reported 
that actual savings would be shaped by how the recommendations were 
implemented (GAO-05-785, p. 24-26). In June 2007 we reported that the 
Navy had revised its cost and savings estimates for its recommendation 
to create fleet readiness centers and, while projected savings from the 
recommendation are still likely to be substantial, they are subject to 
some uncertainties and further efforts will be required to assess 
actual savings as the recommendation is implemented.[Footnote 11] The 
Commission also expressed concern about the savings that DOD claimed 
for business process reengineering-related recommendations and 
questioned the assumptions the department used to support these 
projected savings (Commission report, p. 330). 

* Lengthy payback periods for many recommendations. Many of DOD's 
proposed recommendations are likely to experience lengthy payback 
periods--the time required for cumulative estimated savings to exceed 
cumulative estimated costs--which, in some cases, called into question 
whether the department would be gaining sufficient monetary value for 
the up-front investment cost required to implement its recommendations 
and the time required to recover this investment. More than one-third 
of DOD's proposed recommendations would have taken more than 6 years to 
pay back or would never produce savings. The longer payback period 
associated with certain recommendations was due, in part, to the 
Secretary's stated goal for the 2005 BRAC round of transformation, 
including rebasing in the United States of about 47,000 forces 
stationed overseas, recommendations to move activities from leased 
space to military installations, and recommendations involving the 
reserve components that are projected to have a combination of 
relatively high military construction costs and relatively low annual 
recurring savings (GAO-05-785, p. 41-42). For example, in May 2007 we 
reported that our analysis of the Air Force's recommendations related 
to the Air National Guard showed that implementing these 
recommendations would result in a net annual recurring cost of $53 
million, rather than a net annual recurring savings of $26 million as 
estimated by the Commission.[Footnote 12] The Commission reported that 
the 2005 BRAC round was different from previous rounds in that the 
historical goal of achieving savings was not always the primary 
consideration and other goals, such as transformation, led to proposed 
recommendations that had long payback periods or would never pay back 
(Commission report, p. 3). 

* Differences between communities and DOD on cost and savings 
estimates. During our July 2005 testimony before the Commission, we 
noted that we had observed a number of instances, such as the closure 
of Fort Monmouth, where there were disagreements between what 
installation officials believed it would cost to implement certain BRAC 
recommendations and what DOD included in the COBRA model. We stated in 
our July 2005 testimony that we believed these differences would be 
worked out over time as implementation plans were developed, but we 
also suggested that at least some of the differences needed to be 
reconciled between the Commission, DOD, and affected installations. The 
Commission's final report does not state what actions the Commission 
took to address this suggestion. 

* Savings assumptions for some civilian and military personnel 
reductions lacked manpower studies. In 2005, we identified issues with 
the assumptions that two joint cross-service groups used to determine 
personnel reductions for closure and realignment actions, which raised 
questions about projected savings. In the absence of more precise 
manpower studies, the groups used generic savings factors to estimate 
the number of personnel positions that could be eliminated when 
organizations were co-located or consolidated. However, these 
reductions were based on assumptions that had undergone limited testing 
and full savings realization depends upon the attainment of these 
personnel reductions (GAO-05-785, p. 157, 229). The Commission 
expressed a concern that manpower reductions for at least one 
recommendation, which created several joint bases, were determined 
through the application of a formula and not through deliberations 
among commanders of affected installations and, therefore, manpower 
reductions were directed by the recommendation rather than derived from 
manpower studies and analyses of the functions to be carried out 
(Commission report, p. 219-222). 

* Full estimated environmental restoration costs were uncertain. 
Consistent with prior BRAC rounds, DOD excluded estimated environmental 
restoration costs from its cost and savings estimates on the premise 
that restoration is a liability that the department must address 
regardless of whether a base is kept open or closed. Our prior work has 
shown that environmental costs can be significant, accounting for about 
one-third, or $8.3 billion, of the $23.3 billion in costs incurred 
through fiscal year 2003 for implementing BRAC actions from the four 
previous rounds. As for the 2005 BRAC round, we reported in January 
2007 that, while the expected environmental cleanup costs from the 2005 
BRAC round are not fully known, DOD data indicate that about $950 
million will be needed to clean up those bases that were closed in the 
2005 BRAC round.[Footnote 13] As we stated in testimony before the 
Commission in 2005, environmental restoration has the potential to slow 
the transfer of unneeded base property freed up by the BRAC process to 
communities surrounding those bases, which has adverse effects on BRAC 
communities, as this property cannot be put to productive reuse until 
cleanup is substantially completed. In this regard, we stated that it 
is critical that the department adequately plan for and fund 
environmental restoration requirements to provide for the expedited 
transfer of unneeded property to others for subsequent reuse (GAO-05- 
905, p. 29). The Commission agreed with our concerns (Commission 
report, p. 335). 

* Certain other expected costs and savings to the government were not 
accounted for. As we reported in 2005, the BRAC legislation required 
that DOD take into account the effect of proposed closures and 
realignments on the costs of any other activity of the department or 
any other federal agency that may be required to assume responsibility 
for activities at military installations. While the military services 
and joint cross-service groups were aware of the potential for these 
costs, estimated costs were not included in the cost and savings 
analyses because it was unclear what actions an agency might take in 
response to the BRAC action (GAO-05-785, p. 44-45). The Commission 
report recommended that in the future the department improve 
coordination with other affected federal agencies so that savings 
estimates do not ignore the increased or shifted costs of federal 
operations to agencies outside of DOD (Commission report, p. 308). 

Additionally, although not required to be included in DOD's cost and 
savings analysis, costs associated with transition assistance, planning 
grants, and other assistance made available to affected communities by 
DOD and other agencies could add to the total costs to the government 
of implementing BRAC. We reported that in the prior four BRAC rounds, 
four federal government agencies provided nearly $2 billion in 
assistance through fiscal year 2004 to communities and individuals. DOD 
officials said these agencies are slated to perform similar roles in 
the 2005 round. However, in contrast to other BRAC rounds, assistance 
will likely be needed not only for communities surrounding bases that 
are losing missions and personnel, but also communities that face 
considerable challenges dealing with large influxes of personnel and 
military missions. These personnel increases are likely to place 
additional demands on community services, including the provision of 
adequate housing and schools and increased demand for roads and 
utilities. Some communities may not have adequate resources to address 
needs related to the large influxes of people in the short term and, 
consequently, the federal government may have to provide some 
assistance, thereby increasing BRAC implementation expenditures (GAO- 
05-785 p. 47-52). 

Potentially offsetting some of these costs, we reported in 2005 that 
the cost and savings estimates excluded anticipated revenue from the 
sale of unneeded former base property or the transfer of property to 
communities through economic development conveyances. The potential for 
significant revenue exists at certain locations (GAO-05-785, p. 47-48). 
We noted in our July 2005 testimony that there was an indication that 
the department would place greater emphasis on selling property as a 
disposal process, but details were still being formulated at that time. 

* DOD's past efforts at tracking actual cost and savings had been 
limited. In our testimony before the Commission we stated that the 
department proposed various actions where likely savings would depend 
on how the actions were implemented, but the details of their 
implementation had yet to be developed. We noted that we believed it 
would be important for DOD to develop clearly defined implementation 
plans and to monitor the implementation of these actions to ensure 
compliance with proposed actions and to help ensure that these savings 
in fact occurred. In our assessment of the 2005 BRAC process we 
recommended that DOD establish mechanisms for tracking and periodically 
updating savings estimates as the BRAC recommendations are implemented. 
DOD concurred with this recommendation. 

Human Capital Challenges: 

We identified the potential loss of human capital skills, including 
expertise and experience, as an issue for some of DOD's proposed 
realignment and closure actions. We pointed out to the Commission that 
gaining bases may face challenges if fewer people moved. For example, 
related to the proposed but subsequently overturned closure of Naval 
Shipyard Portsmouth, Maine, officials from one of the joint cross- 
service groups estimated that it would have taken up to 8 years to 
fully develop skills associated with maintaining nuclear-powered 
submarines. Officials at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, expressed a similar 
concern about the proposed closure of that installation and transfer of 
a large portion of the work to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. We 
noted in our July 2005 testimony before the Commission that should 
there be BRAC actions where the loss of personnel is extensive, 
particularly for those skills requiring extensive education, training, 
and experience, the department could face challenges in replacing these 
critical skills. In this regard, we noted that it was important that 
the department develop transition plans that recognize the loss of 
human capital skills and provide for replacement capability to minimize 
disruption to ongoing defense operations. We also concluded in 2005 
that without such a plan, the department's ability to provide the 
necessary support to military forces could be at risk (GAO-05-905, p. 
25-26). 

The Commission's report included concerns about the loss of 
intellectual capital as a result of some closure or realignment 
actions. For example, the Commission specifically noted that the loss 
of some intellectual capital was to be expected from the relocation of 
technical activities from Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen Proving Ground. The 
Commission report stated that the Commission agreed with DOD's view 
that the loss of intellectual capital was an implementation challenge 
that must be managed with careful planning and sequencing. The 
Commission concluded that the adverse effects of moving existing 
programs could be managed over the 6-year implementation period by 
properly sequencing the movement of programs to ensure no loss in 
service, or by providing temporary redundant or duplicative 
capabilities as necessary to ensure continuous and uninterrupted 
program integrity. Further, the Commission report stated "the 
department pointed out that there is a nationally recognized science 
and technology workforce in Maryland containing the highest percentage 
of professional and technical workers (about 24 percent)." To address 
the potential loss of intellectual capital, the Commission recommended 
that the Secretary of Defense submit a report to certain congressional 
committees that addresses aspects of the potential loss of expertise 
and experience. Specifically, the Commission recommended that the 
Secretary of Defense submit a report to the congressional committees of 
jurisdiction that movement of operations, functions, or activities from 
Fort Monmouth to the Aberdeen Proving Ground will be accomplished 
without disruption of support to the Global War on Terrorism or other 
critical contingency operations and that safeguards exist to ensure 
that necessary redundant capabilities have been put in place to 
mitigate the potential degradation of such support, and to ensure 
maximum retention of critical workforce. Also, the Commission noted 
that they believed congressional oversight on this issue may benefit 
from a review by us (Commission report, p. 10-12). Because the 
Commission suggested our review in its findings on the closure of Fort 
Monmouth and you have requested that we review the methodology of the 
DOD report, we will review the methodology after DOD issues its report. 

Agency Comments: 

Because we drew from our past work and published documents in preparing 
this correspondence, we did not seek official comments from DOD on its 
contents, but did advise them that we were issuing this correspondence. 

_________: 

We are sending copies of this correspondence to the Chairman and 
Ranking Member of the Senate and House Committees on Armed Services; 
the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate and House Committees on 
Appropriations, Subcommittees on Defense; the Chairman and Ranking 
Member of the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, 
Subcommittees on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related 
Agencies; the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on 
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; the Chairman and Ranking 
Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental 
Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the 
Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia; the Chairman and 
Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government 
Reform; members of the Congressional delegations from Maryland, New 
Jersey, New York, and Virginia; the Secretary of Defense; and the 
Director, Office of Management and Budget. We will also make copies to 
others upon request. In addition, the correspondence will be available 
at no charge on GAO's Web site at [hyperlink: http://www.gao.gov]. 

If you or your staff have any questions about this correspondence, 
please contact me on (202) 512-4523 or leporeb@gao.gov. Contact points 
for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be 
found on the last page of this correspondence. 

Signed by: 

Brian J. Lepore: 
Director: 
Defense Capabilities and Management: 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] 31 U.S.C.  717. 

[2] P.L. 107-107, Title XXX (2001). 

[3] GAO, Military Bases: Analysis of DOD's 2005 Selection Process and 
Recommendations for Base Closures and Realignments, GAO-05-785 
(Washington, D.C.: July 1, 2005). 

[4] GAO, Military Base Closures: Observations on Prior and Current BRAC 
Rounds, GAO-05-614 (Washington, D.C.: May 3, 2005); and Military Bases: 
Observations on DOD's 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Selection 
Process and Recommendations, GAO-05-905 (Washington, D.C.: July 18, 
2005). 

[5] GAO-05-785, GAO-05-614, and GAO-05-905. 

[6] Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, 2005 Base Closure 
and Realignment Commission Report to the President (Arlington, Va.: 
Sept. 8, 2005). 

[7] The first round in 1988 was authorized by the Defense Authorization 
Amendments and Base Closure and Realignment Act, as amended (Pub. L. 
No. 100-526, Title II, (1988)). Subsequently, additional BRAC rounds 
were completed in 1991, 1993, and 1995 as authorized by the Defense 
Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990, as amended (Pub. L. No.101- 
510, Title XXIX (1990)). The latest round--BRAC 2005--was authorized by 
the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002 (Pub. L. 
No. 107-107, Title XXX (2001)). 

[8] The law that established certain provisions of the BRAC process 
(Pub. L. No. 101-510, section 2903 (c)(5)) required specified DOD 
personnel to certify to the best of their knowledge and belief that 
information provided to the Secretary of Defense or the Commission 
concerning the realignment or closure of a military installation was 
accurate and complete. During the BRAC process, data were certified by 
senior officials at DOD installations. 

[9] The President was required to approve or disapprove the 
Commission's recommendations in their entirety by September 23, 2005. 
After they were approved, the recommendations were forwarded to 
Congress, which had 45 days or until the adjournment of Congress to 
disapprove the recommendations on an all-or-none basis; otherwise, the 
recommendations became binding. 

[10] Budget quality estimates were to be developed once BRAC decisions 
were made and detailed implementation plans were developed. 

[11] GAO, Military Base Closures: Projected Savings from Fleet 
Readiness Centers Likely Overstated and Actions Needed to Track Actual 
Savings and Overcome Certain Challenges, GAO-07-304 (Washington, D.C.: 
June 29, 2007). 

[12] GAO, Military Base Closures: Management Strategy Needed to 
Mitigate Challenges and Improve Communication to Help Ensure Timely 
Implementation of Air National Guard Recommendations, GAO-07-641 
(Washington, D.C.: May 16, 2007). 

[13] GAO, Military Base Closures: Opportunities Exist to Improve 
Environmental Cleanup Cost Reporting and to Expedite Transfer of 
Unneeded Property, GAO-07-166 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 30, 2007).

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