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Firms gearing up for more BRAC

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The dust has hardly settled on a Pentagon base realignment and closure initiative that bulked up local bases Fort Meade and Fort Belvoir, and already the Defense Department is gearing up for consolidation once again, putting local companies and lobbying firms on alert.

Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta proposed new rounds of what’s commonly dubbed BRAC, arguing that despite the controversy that normally surrounds such moves, “it is the only effective way to achieve infrastructure savings.”

BRAC typically increases the personnel or facilities at some military bases at the expense of other bases, leaving some residents and local officials concerned that they will lose associated jobs and money. Some in Congress have already expressed opposition to another round of BRAC.

In the Washington area, the most recent round of BRAC added about 5,500 employees to Fort Meade, the biggest chunk of which came from the relocation of nearly 4,300 Defense Information Systems Agency employees.

In Northern Virginia, the realignment process resulted in two prominent new facilities: the Mark Center in Alexandria and a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency campus in Springfield.

Local firms aren’t waiting to see what is proposed next. They’re already making new hires and partnerships to position for intense debates over which pieces of the military’s infrastructure should be closed or restructured.

“Regardless of whether a BRAC gets passed ... DOD has left no doubt in anybody’s mind that follows it that they are going to do things, within the law that they have now, to change the face of installations,” said Barry D. Rhoads, president of Washington-based lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates. He served as deputy general counsel on the 1991 BRAC commission and has been retained by states such as Mississippi for close to two decades in connection with BRAC issues.

Earlier this year, Alexandria-based consulting firm Spectrum Group announced a partnership with the Principi Group meant to focus on BRAC-related work.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Jones, who joined Spectrum earlier this year and is part of the consulting firm’s BRAC team, said the alliance brings together Spectrum’s experience from the Pentagon perspective with Principi’s experience from the BRAC Commission perspective. Anthony Principi, the group’s president, was chair of the 2005 commission.

Jones, who was in charge of gathering BRAC-related data at Fort Carson, Colo., in the 1990s, said the team will focus on helping communities with military installations provide accurate data to BRAC officials and consider ways they can help a base be more efficient and perhaps encourage officials to maintain it.

For instance, Jones said, a town might offer its own fire services on a per-response basis so that a military base could stop operating its own fire station.

Jones and Rhoads agreed that whether or not BRAC is formally undertaken, the military will be taking a hard look at its bases to try to reduce excess capacity and save money.

Rhoads, who noted that the heavy activity in the most recent round means he wouldn’t expect any big surprises locally, said he’s being active. “My clients aren’t paying me to wait for the closure list to come out,” he said.

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