Friday, May 23, 2008

Right way and wrong way to implement BRAC

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When I was growing up, my dad taught me to do things the correct way, not half way or a quick fix.

This brings me to the Base Closure and Realignment plan involving Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Just widening Route 355 in front of the National Institutes of Health and Bethesda Naval Hospital, will not be the answer to the Pentagon’s plan of alleviating the horrible traffic that is expected when Walter Reed is moved there.

The solution: keep the buildings where they are and build an underground rail line to connect Walter Reed, Bethesda, Naval Hospital, NIH and maybe Suburban Hospital. This would be a better solution. People can stay at the same job locations, this plan is less likely to contribute to the traffic crunch and services could be rendered in a quicker time frame.

It will cost more, but isn’t anything that is worth its while more expensive? This extra money will come from the second most expensive BRAC program (Walter Reed being the most expensive), National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

It was originally said that the move and consolidation of NGA to the Fort Belvoir area would be $454 million. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office report in December, the price has risen to $1.2 billion.

Why did the Pentagon low-ball the cost so much about the NGA move? (The BRAC program is $10 billion over budget). Isn’t it more important to do the Walter Reed BRAC correctly? Has anyone in the Pentagon traveled on Route 355, in front of NIH and Bethesda Naval Hospital, during rush hour? Do the states have millions of extra dollars to meet the BRAC requirements?

As my dad would say, one needs to weigh the pros and cons, costs vs. benefits, and who does it benefit more.

Lee Schroeder, North Bethesda