BRAC Poses Threat to City

BRAC Poses Threat to City

Economic impact of Department of Defense decision on Alexandria could be long term.

<bt>Alexandria could lose as much as seven percent of its workforce and increase its vacant office space by eight percent, pushing the city's office vacancy rate over 20 percent. That is the conclusion of an analysis of the recent Base Closure and Realignment Report (BRAC) issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.

"The City of Alexandria is one of the most negatively impacted communities in the United States ... The projected direct and indirect impact ... is the loss of some 7,200 private sector and Department of Defense jobs," according to the July 6 analysis. It was issued in preparation for the BRAC Commission hearings held last Thursday.

Although Alexandria Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper was not given the opportunity to testify before the Commission, the city analysis challenged the defense department's recommendations on vacating the 1.2 million square feet of leased space in 22 Alexandria buildings. The primary element of the city's arguments against the BRAC recommendations was based on the following:

"The Amended Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act specified BRAC selection criteria do not include, as a military value consideration, the moving from leased space as an approved criteria."

This position was in line with U.S. Sen. John Warner's testimony before the commission that targeting leased office space was not intended or permitted by the base closing and realignment law when adopted by Congress. Warner is chairman of the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee and a co-author of the 1990 law.

OTHER ISSUES raised by the city's analysis were:

* The "Military Value Scoring Plan" used in this area for major administrative and headquarters activities was "deeply flawed and biased."

* The costing of factors used in the model resulted in "a cost and saving bias against non-military base office buildings."

* DoD's minimum anti-terrorism standards for new and existing buildings "are overly prescriptive and not performance based."

* Material external costs to DoD are not reflected in the analysis.

* The definition of community in the determination of "economic impact" is overly broad.

* The risk of organizational disruption of some of the activities being moved may outweigh the estimated cost of savings.

"Basically, the entire process was biased from the start. In all my years, I have never seen a deck stacked so bad," said Mark Jinks, assistant city manager, Fiscal and Financial Affairs.

"Terrorists tend not to hit administrative offices. So clearly they (DoD) set aside military values in their evaluations. There are internal memos at the Pentagon indicating the decision was predetermined and the justifications were made to fit that predetermination," Jinks said.

"We don't know if our analysis is going to get any consideration or not or if there are going to be any changes. We believe there is a level of arbitrary decision making and Alexandria's loss, which is very serious, in not getting full consideration. The BRAC Commission is not focusing on Alexandria," Pepper said after the hearings.

HER ASSESSMENT was buttressed by U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8). "These moves represent arbitrary decision-making, inconsistent reasoning and harmful results for Northern Virginia. The synergy that currently exists in the region will be disrupted and highly skilled workers will be reluctant to relocate elsewhere."

As proof of "arbitrary" decision-making, the city analysis cited the following statements from the BRAC Report: "All leased locations and temporary locations are ranked as less desirable than owned space; the concentration of a large quantity of activities in the D.C. area is viewed as negative; and higher military value scores indicate more suitable locations."

It also noted, "DoD-owned space achieved a perfect 1.0 score" in the rating process, "while leased space scored a 0." This was linked with the BRAC Report statement, "Locations in leased space are viewed as having a very high need for realignment."

OTHER POINTS made by the city analysis included:

* Alexandria has approximately 360 technology firms employing 13,000 to support the military's high tech needs.

* Office space utilized by DoD in Alexandria has an overall lower cost than in other areas of the metropolitan region. DoD Alexandria leases average $25 per square foot, with some as low as $17 per square foot, compared with DoD's area average of $37.29 per square foot. This raises doubts about any projected cost savings to DoD.

* Some of the existing office leases do not expire until as late as 2015 with no break clauses. This means that tax payers will be paying double if those offices are vacated, even if those moves are onto military bases were new facilities will have to be constructed in many cases.

Rather than relocate the 1.2 million square feet of DoD office space in Alexandria, the analysis proposed that it be consolidated into either the Victory Center or Hoffman Center, both located on Eisenhower Avenue. "Nearly all the ... office uses ... proposed for realignment ... could fit" into either of these complexes, according to the city report.

It also noted, "Private sector financing and not federal appropriations would be used to finance the construction of these new facilities" to make them secure under the new federal anti-terrorism guidelines.

The 1.6-million-square feet Victory Center, located on a 16 acre site, previously housed the U.S. Army Materiel Command until it was moved onto Fort Belvoir approximately 18 months ago. In order to accomplish that move a new headquarters building was designed and constructed for their use. Under the BRAC realignment, AMC is now scheduled to be relocated again to Alabama.

As stated in the real estate description of the building, "The property is the only development of its size, within walking distance to Metro (Van Dorn Station), to meet ... GSA's Interagency Security Criteria and the Military's Unified Facilities Criteria." It offers 100-foot setbacks on all sides with space to construct secured parking garages.

THE BRAC COMMISSION is required to report its recommendations to the president by Sept. 8. He must either approve or reject those recommendations in their entirety by Sept. 23. If rejected by the president, the commission must send revised recommendations back to him by Oct. 20.

The president has until Nov. 7 to forward his approval to Congress. If he does not meet that deadline the BRAC recommendations are not acted upon. This has not happened since the law was adopted.