Looking Back on BRAC: Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas

The heart of the SAMMC complex including the 760,000 Consolidated Tower project funded through the 2005 BRAC.

Located in the heart of San Antonio, Fort Sam Houston is one of the nation’s oldest Army bases. It was established in 1845—in rented buildings and a quartermaster supply depot in the Alamo—as the Post at San Antonio, and was renamed for the first president of the Republic of Texas in 1890. Construction of the Quadrangle, on 92 acres of land donated by the city of San Antonio began in 1876. The the base has been expanded many times to reach its current size of about 3,000 acres. Today, its more than 800 historic buildings—the largest collection of historic structures in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)—form the Fort Sam Houston National Historic Landmark.

The most recent round of BRAC resulted in six major moves/consolidations at Fort Sam Houston, all of which have had huge impacts on the base and are expected to result in significant long-term cost savings for the military. They included $3.4 billion in construction and an estimated $8.3 billion in economic impacts to the city of San Antonio.

The first of these is the combination of installation support services at Fort Sam Houston with those at Randolph and Lackland Air Force bases (as well as eight other smaller operating locations) into a single organization, known as Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA), that is now DoD’s largest joint base. The Air Force—the lead agency for JBSA—established the 502nd Air Base Wing to provide installation support across all JBSA locations, and its commander also serves as the JBSA commander. Today, JBSA covers 40,000 acres, supports a workforce of more than 73,000, and has more active runways and more students than any other U.S. military installation. Its total plant replacement value is about $10.3 billion and its annual budget is $800 million.

The second consolidation has transformed Fort Sam Houston—already known as the “Home of Army Medicine” and the “Home of the Combat Medic”—into the world’s largest enlisted military medical education and training center. This transformation, which consolidated five major training centers from across the country, concluded with the opening of the 1.2 million-square-foot, $800 million Military Education and Training Campus (METC) in 2010. The tri-service facility—which trains about 24,000 Army, Navy and Air Force personnel each year—reached full operating capacity in September 2011. It consists of five new instructional buildings, six existing ones, three new dormitories, a new dining facility and a headquarters building.

BRAC 2005 also directed the realignment of the inpatient medical function of the 59th Medical Wing (Wilford Hall Medical Center) to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) at Fort Sam Houston, creating the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC). SAMMC construction projects included a new 760,000-square-foot tower, renovations to BAMC, a 5,000-space parking structure, a central energy plant and a primary care clinic, all of which were completed by September 2011 at a total cost of about $802.3 million. SAMCC is now DoD’s largest inpatient health care facility and its only level-one trauma center.

The final three big BRAC-directed events at Fort Sam Houston were the move and consolidation of the U.S. Army’s Installation Management Command (IMCOM) and two laboratory construction projects, the Joint Center for Excellence for Battlefield Health and Trauma Research (BHT) and the Tri-Service Research Laboratory (TRSL). The creation of the IMCOM campus involved the renovation of four buildings, an addition to one, the construction of two new buildings and the transfer of about 2,400 personnel into new offices there between 2009 and 2011. The 133,100-square foot BHT, which was completed in August 2010 at a cost of $111 million, integrates all three services’ combat casualty care research missions. The TSRL, a $66.9 million, 181,000-square-foot laboratory that consolidates biomedical research from all three services, opened in May 2011.

Overall, 48 BRAC-related construction projects (most certified LEED-Silver) have been completed at Fort Sam Houston and the rest of JBSA, resulting in the construction or renovation of almost 11 million square feet of space and the creation of the largest and most important military medical training facility in the world.