WASHINGTON -- The Base Realignment and Closure Commission's (BRAC) recommendations for reshaping the Defense Department's (DoD) infrastructure and force structure officially took effect Nov. 9 after Congress allowed them to pass into law at the mandated Nov. 8 deadline. The 2005 BRAC recommendations represent the most aggressive BRAC ever proposed, affecting more than 800 installations, although military fitness will probably not be affected, officials said.

“It’s up to each base itself [what to do with its fitness center], but [military fitness] will probably not be affected at all,” said Glenn Flood, DoD spokesperson. “The military [at the affected bases] just goes to another base.”

By statute, the Defense Department now has until Sept. 15, 2007 -- two years from the date President Bush sent Congress the BRAC commission's final report -- to begin closing and realigning the installations as called for in the report. The process must be completed by Sept. 15, 2011, DoD officials said.

The nine-member BRAC panel delivered its final report to President Bush Sept. 8, and he, in turn, sent it to Congress for legislative review Sept. 15. Congress had 45 legislative days, until Nov. 9, to accept or reject the report in its entirety. However, it was not authorized to make any changes to the final report.

The four previous BRAC rounds - in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 - resulted in 97 major closures, 55 major realignments and 235 minor actions, according to DoD figures. Overall, closing and realigning these installations saved taxpayers around $18 billion though fiscal 2001 and a further $7 billion per year since, officials said.

After months of study, installation visits and public hearings around the country, the nine-member BRAC panel approved 86 percent of DoD's original BRAC recommendations - 119 with no change and another 45 with amendments, the panel noted. The panel also rejected 13 recommendations, significantly modified another 13, and made five additional closure or realignment recommendations on its own initiative.

Of DoD's 33 major closure recommendations, the panel approved 21, recommended seven bases be realigned rather than closed, and rejected five recommendations outright. In addition, the commission recommended closing rather than realigning another installation, for a total of 22 major closures.

Many of the transformational recommendations in the report, particularly those to establish joint operations, will present significant challenges as they are implemented, officials acknowledged.

Detailed business plans will be developed for every BRAC recommendation, laying out what actions are required to implement them, when they will occur, and what resources are needed to put them into effect, officials said. Affected services and agencies must submit these plans by Nov. 15 to the DoD Installation Capabilities Council, which will review them and forward them to the Infrastructure Steering Group for approval.

Meanwhile, DoD is poised to begin working with civilian employees and communities to be affected by the BRAC decisions. DoD has a long and successful history of helping its civilian workers impacted by base closings, officials noted. This includes programs that promote placement, training, retraining and transition to new positions.

Since 1989, DoD has reduced its civilian work force by 428,400 people, with less than 10 percent of those reductions through involuntary separations, officials said. DoD's Priority Placement Program, which officials call the centerpiece of DoD's Civilian Assistance and Re-employment programs, gives defense employees placement priority at other DoD facilities.

DoD's Office of Economic Adjustment will take the lead for the federal government in helping communities affected by base closures and realignments, working cooperatively with the President's Economic Adjustment Committee, officials said.

A community conference to be held later this year will focus on many of the issues involved in BRAC 2005 and the programs available to address them.