Keeping tabs for Congress on DOD’s base closing efforts


(Photo: GAO)
February 4, 2014

When a federal commission recommended and Congress approved the closing of 22 major military installations and the major realignment of 33 others in 2005, Brian Lepore was given the task of monitoring the process and assessing how well the Pentagon was carrying out the complex plan.

As head of the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) defense capabilities and management team, Lepore and colleagues issued numerous detailed reports tracking the progress made by Department of Defense (DOD), examining whether it was meeting its goals of reducing excess infrastructure and creating a more agile military, and analyzing if it had achieved the cost savings that had been promised.

“My role has been to help the Department of Defense and the Congress ensure the integrity of the process and to identify improvements needed to meet the goals and make changes for any future base closing rounds,” said Lepore. “These were sensitive decisions to close and realign bases, with thousands of jobs transferred or eliminated and many local communities severely impacted.”

As part of his oversight, Lepore informed Congress in 2012 that the cost of implementing the base closing and realignment plan had totaled $35.1 billion, $14 billion more than DOD originally estimated. He found, for example, that the costs associated with changes at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency more than doubled from the estimated $1.1 billion to $2.6 million.

Lepore said the increased costs system-wide were largely due to inadequate planning that resulted in construction expenses that had not been anticipated, as well as an underestimation of the costs of associated information technology.

Who is Brian Lepore?

POSITION: Director, Defense Capabilities and Management. Government Accountability Office (GAO)

RESIDENCE: Silver Spring, Md.

AGE: 55

EDUCATION: University of Massachusetts, B.A.; Suffolk University, M.A. in public administration

AWARDS: Several GAO Distinguished Service Awards and Comptroller General's Integrity Award

HOBBIES: Several GAO Distinguished Service Awards and Comptroller General's Integrity Award

VOLUNTEER WORK: Previously served as a member of the Athletic Council at St. Andrew the Apostle Church and School in Silver Spring, Md., that manages the student participation in Catholic Youth Organization sports leagues

Lepore recommended ways for DOD to improve the process of identifying and estimating those expenses during future base closing rounds. He also proposed ways to help future base closing commissions more effectively review Pentagon recommendations, and offered a series of proposals to assist the military in carrying out the plans. The DOD has taken issue with some of the GAO’s findings and recommendations.

In addition, Lepore and his team have examined the short and longer term economic impact on communities affected by base closures, highlighting successful efforts to use the former military facilities to spur new business development and job creation. He said communities that acted quickly to come up and execute redevelopment plans fared better than those that were slow to build coalitions and make decisions to move forward.

Besides monitoring the 2005 base closing recommendations, Lepore is leading GAO’s work on U.S. plans to realign the U.S. military force posture in Asia.

Lepore and his team so far have made 14 recommendations to improve planning and cost estimating for the realignment of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula, in Okinawa, Japan and on Guam. One of the recommendations led DOD to take an action affecting U.S. forces in South Korea that saved just over $3 billion.

John Pendleton, a GAO colleague, said Lepore is an expert in his field, understands the details and sees the big picture. Moreover, he said, Lepore is an excellent communicator who can explain complicated situations to policymakers.

Regarding the work in Asia, Pendleton said, Lepore has had “tremendous influence with Congress because of his ability to articulate the challenges, the true costs and many complicated situations.”

Laura Durland, who works on the military infrastructure issues with Lepore, said he is extremely supportive of his staff. She said he takes time to help individuals with their career development and provides direction for their inquiries, respects their opinions and remains calm even during stressful situations.

Lepore arrived at the GAO in 1987 after a stint as a radio news anchor and reporter, and time in graduate school.

“We were always reporting on government activities that just didn’t seem to be going as well as intended,” said Lepore. “I was always seeing GAO reports that identified ways to improve government operations, management or service delivery.”

When the opportunity to work at GAO became available, Lepore said, he jumped at the offer.

“I really admired GAO and thought that’s for me,” he said. “I wanted to join government service because I saw it as a chance to serve our nation and try to just make government work better.”

This article was jointly prepared by the Partnership for Public Service, a group seeking to enhance the performance of the federal government, and washingtonpost.com. Go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/fed-player/ to read about other federal workers who are making a difference. To recommend a Federal Player of the Week, contact us at fedplayers@ourpublicservice.org.

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