Military Base Realignments and Closures:
Army Is Developing Plans to Transfer Functions from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, but Challenges Remain
GAO-08-1010R: Published: Aug 13, 2008. Publicly Released: Aug 13, 2008.
In September 2005, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommended that the Department of Defense (DOD) close Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and realign most of its technical functions to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, as one of 182 recommendations in the 2005 base realignment and closure (BRAC) round. DOD must complete the closure and realignment actions specified in the recommendation within the statutory 6-year implementation period ending September 15, 2011. Representatives from communities surrounding Fort Monmouth, as well as elected officials, raised concerns during hearings before the BRAC Commission that a number of current employees would not move to Aberdeen Proving Ground, leading to a loss of expertise that could negatively affect ongoing support for military operations, including the Global War on Terrorism. The Secretary of the Army pledged that the Army would not allow the transfer of functions to Aberdeen Proving Ground to affect this ongoing support. Although some of the BRAC commissioners shared the concern about the potential loss of expertise, the commission concluded in its report that DOD could mitigate the adverse effects of moving existing programs over the implementation period. However, to ensure that future leaders understood this concern, the commission report included language recommending that the Secretary of Defense submit a report to Congress that the movement of functions from Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen Proving Ground would be accomplished without disruption to their support to the Global War on Terrorism or other critical contingency operations. DOD issued its report in December 2007, which concluded that the department could accomplish the move without disruption to ongoing support efforts. Fort Monmouth currently hosts organizations that perform research, development, and acquisition of the Army's command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems. About one-third of the current C4ISR workforce consists of scientists and engineers, the largest single group, with logistics, contracting, and business occupations constituting most of the remaining federal government civilian workforce. Clerks and administrative assistant positions constitute about 5 percent of the workforce. This workforce is further supplemented by about 1,600 embedded contractor employees and more than 1,000 contractor employees located off the installation. This review is one in a series of reviews that we have undertaken on the implementation of the 2005 BRAC round recommendations.
The Army is in the process of developing and implementing plans to transfer C4ISR functions from Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen Proving Ground. The Army faces some significant challenges and has started to identify mitigation strategies that, if implemented as intended, may lessen the mission-disruption risks associated with the transfer. With about 3 years remaining before the planned closure of Fort Monmouth, the Army has developed high-level plans that are outlined in DOD's December 2007 report to Congress, which identified approaches to completing the transfer and general risk-mitigation strategies. However, DOD's December 2007 report did not include detailed plans for how the Army intends to complete the transfer. As planning efforts have evolved, the C4ISR organizations have started to develop detailed plans to manage the transfer and continue support for ongoing DOD missions. By its very nature, the BRAC process is complex. As such, the Army faces several significant challenges in completing the transfer, which officials have recognized, and the Army is developing strategies designed to lessen the associated risks. First, the Army is facing human capital challenges in hiring a projected 3,700 federal government civilian employees to fully reconstitute its expected workforce authorization of about 5,100 civilians at Aberdeen Proving Ground in 2011, which includes a large number of scientists and engineers with technical expertise. At the time of our review, the Army's request for direct hire authority was under review within DOD, but had not yet been submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, which grants the authority. To help mitigate the effects of the potentially smaller and less experienced workforce at Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Army has identified strategies, including focusing on the highest-priority workload and deferring some portions of the C4ISR workload, temporarily transferring some of the workload to other DOD organizations, or hiring additional contractors. Second, the Army faces challenges in obtaining personnel security clearances for nearly all of its newly hired employees in a timely manner. Third, the Army faces infrastructure challenges in completing the construction of facilities to accommodate C4ISR personnel and relocation of personnel and equipment to Aberdeen Proving Ground by the end of the BRAC implementation period. Finally, the Army faces challenges in funding the increasing costs of the transfer. These challenges are significant but are not unique to the closure of Fort Monmouth, as we have previously reported on similar challenges as they relate to the implementation of other BRAC recommendations. While the Army has begun to identify and implement mitigation strategies designed to lessen the risks associated with each of the challenges, it is too early to determine the effectiveness of these strategies in ensuring continued support to military missions. DOD plans to continue ongoing oversight of the implementation of this BRAC recommendation at the installation level, Army headquarters, and DOD, and to revise plans, as appropriate, which may also lessen potential mission-disruption risks.