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Who Made Who: BRAC Came From Congress

Closing big military bases has always been politically difficult, given the economic benefits of their payrolls and purchases to surrounding areas. Congress made it even more difficult in 1977 with a law restricting the military’s ability to shed excess infrastructure.

After several unsuccessful attempts in the 1980s to relax those restrictions, lawmakers finally agreed to an all-or-nothing scheme called the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (it goes by the misaligned initials BRAC). The independent commission, working from Defense Department recommendations, would draw up a list of military facilities to be consolidated or closed and present the list to the president for his approval or denial.

The BRAC recommendations would then go before Congress, which would have to either accept or reject the list in its entirety, with no adjustments. That way, no state would gain an advantage because of its influence in Congress or its superior lobbying.

The system worked starting in 1988 and through successive rounds in 1991, 1993 and 1995. In 2001, Congress authorized a round of closures to begin in 2005. That ultimately led the commission to recommend 813 individual infrastructure changes, including closing 24 major bases and realigning 24 others.

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