“BRAC” is the abbreviation for Base Realignment and Closure. Though, to be technically correct, it is formally used by DoD as the acronym for Base Closure and Realignment. Either way, BRAC is the process by which the military closes bases and realigns its forces around the globe.
Up until the 1970s, the decision to close or realign military bases was the sole province of the Secretary of Defense. Congress eventually became uncomfortable with DoD’s sovereign authority in this matter and intervened by passing legislation that, in effect, required Congressional approval of proposed base closures. This politicized the process, leading to no base closures between 1977 and 1988.
With the end of the Cold War, there was an urgent need for the U.S. military to realign and consolidate its facilities around the world. This eventually led to legislation establishing the first BRAC Commission in 1988. The Commissions are designed as independent bi-partisan committees comprised of individuals with the necessary expertise to objectively evaluate the DoD’s proposed closure actions without interference from political influence.
The BRAC Commission reviews the Pentagon’s recommendations with the power to remove recommendations or add new ones. Once the Commission’s recommendations are complete, they are transmitted to the President who must decide whether to accept or reject the BRAC recommendations in their entirety (there is no “line item” approval or rejection option). If the President accepts the BRAC recommendations they are binding in 45 “legislative days” unless Congress enacts a joint resolution of disapproval. The BRAC process must then be completed within six years.
There have been five BRAC rounds thus far in 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995 and 2005. Altogether, the BRAC process has led to the closure of more than 350 military installations.