Not Acceptable! Senators Say Newly Released BRAC Data ‘Insufficient’

Although the Department of Defense has now released certain classified materials concerning the process for its BRAC recommendations, two senators said what was released was insufficient.

Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) are calling the Base Closing data recently made available by the Department of Defense “insufficient.”

Collins, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and ranking member Lieberman recently wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on May 27 stating that DoD’s failure to release supporting BRAC information immediately had undermined the integrity of the process. The senators therefore threatened to use their subpoena power to obtain specific documents such as emails, memos, handwritten notes, if those documents were not made available immediately.

While the Department of Defense has now released certain classified materials, the senators said what was released was not useful for base officials in public hearings and meetings.

“It is disappointing that nearly three weeks after the Base Realignment and Closure List was released by the Department of Defense, most of the supporting documentation is available only in classified form. This means that the documents cannot be used at public hearings, public meetings, or at meetings that are not held in a classified facility by people with security clearances. In addition, these documents would not be available for individual bases to use to make their cases in defense of keeping their facilities open,” the senators said in a joint statement.

“The specific information that we requested would go a long way toward ensuring the integrity of the base realignment and closure process. While these documents are currently undergoing review, we have no indication thus far, that they satisfy our request. Once the review of these documents is completed, we will determine whether a subpoena is necessary,” the senators added.

In response to the Senators’ letter late last week to Secretary Rumsfeld requesting immediate release of specific BRAC-related data, Acting Deputy Secretary Gordon England, writing on behalf of Secretary Rumsfeld, outlined the documents that the Department of Defense have made available to Members of Congress and those with security clearances. England’s letter, however, does not address the specific materials Senators Collins and Lieberman have requested relating to DoD’s possible consideration of factors not authorized by the BRAC statute.

Defense officials announced this week that a secure reading room containing more information on DoD’s BRAC recommendations had been opened. In a letter to BRAC Committee Chairman Anthony J. Principi, acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said the department opened the reading room in Suite 700 of the Polk Building in Crystal City, Arlington, Va. The room is open to the BRAC commission, members of Congress and their staffs with "secret" security clearance from 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. Monday-Friday. The department also is working with the House and Senate to set up secure reading rooms on Capitol Hill, officials said.

According to the letter, the reading room contains:

– Deliberative minutes from the Joint Cross-Service Groups, the Military Departments and the two senior DOD oversight groups (Infrastructure Steering Group and Infrastructure Executive Council).
– Data collected to support capacity, military value, and scenario development and analyses.
– Memoranda to guide the BRAC process from Cross Service groups, the Military Departments, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

“The contents of this room represent the balance of DOD BRAC information supporting the recommendations not already provided to the Commission and to Congress,” the letter stated.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47