Thursday, July 14, 2005
As an afterthought to the Defense Department’s list of bases recommended for closure, the commission responsible for reviewing the list recently suggested merging the Naval Postgraduate School and the Defense Language Institute, or possibly combining the schools with the Air Force Institute of Technology, now based at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
On July 1, Anthony Principi, chair of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seeking explanations for why certain military installations, including DLI and NPS, were not added to the list for closure or realignment.
According to Principi’s letter, no deliberation will be made on whether to include DLI or NPS on the list until the commission’s open hearing on July 19. This means Rumsfeld has until July 18 to provide an explanation for why such consolidations were not included in the Secretary’s May 13 BRAC list.
The idea of consolidating the two schools in some fashion or another is neither a surprise nor new, says Monterey’s Assistant City Manager Fred Cohn. In fact, the city has been suggesting “something along those lines” since the 1993 round of base closures.
“We think the idea of putting the schools under a common owner merits some review,” Cohn says. “There isn’t a whole lot of coordination between the two schools and it’s been costing the taxpayers a lot of money. We think consolidation could avoid duplication and overhead.”
Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) agrees.
“The challenge,” Farr says, “Is how do you find things in common and eliminate redundancy, while at the same time keeping them on mission? And can you do this on a single command?”
Furthermore, Farr worries that BRAC simply isn’t designed to implement a complex restructure of the two schools’ administrations.
“This has been discussed behind-the-scenes for some time now and what people [question] is BRAC’s ability to execute,” Farr says. “Congress creates the BRAC law and there’s not very much room there to be creative. Any plan to consolidate these two institutions would have to be very creative.”
Yet some opponents of the proposal, like Navy Admiral Hank Mauz, feel the schools are simply too dissimilar to efficiently consolidate.
“The two schools are so fundamentally different it’s like comparing apples and cats,” Mauz says.
According to Mauz, NPS differs from the language institute because it’s a graduate program that specializes in international relations and security policy. The school brings together faculty, students from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, National Guard, various defense agencies, and international officers and civilians from more than 60 countries.
“The DLI has about 3,000 students with an average age of 19 who are learning languages,” Mauz explains, “while at NPS you see officers working on Masters and Ph.Ds. These are people with an average age of 31, many of whom are back from operational tours.
“It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to consolidate the two. It’s not broken, so I don’t know what needs to be fixed,” Mauz continues. “Clearly, the people who are jumping on this bandwagon are not familiar with either school.”
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Farr says he agrees that DLI and NPS are on “opposite ends of the academic spectrum.” But he insists it’s the schools’ many similarities that make some type of consolidation “a very good idea.”
KEEPING TRACK OF BRAC
Base Realignment and Closure Commission soldiers on.
MARCH 15: President Bush names members of the fifth Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission.
MAY 16: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld gives the BRAC Commission and Congress the Pentagon’s recommendations for military facilities that should be closed.
SEPT. 8: BRAC Commission to make its own base closure recommendations.
SEPT. 23: Presidential decision on whether to accept or reject the BRAC recommendations in their entirety—the White House’s only options. If Bush accepts the plan, it becomes final within 45 legislative days, unless Congress passes a joint resolution to block the entire package.
OCT. 20: If Bush rejects the BRAC recommendations, the commission has until this date to submit a revised list of proposed closures.
NOV. 7: President to approve or disapprove the revised recommendations.
APRIL 15, 2006: The commission terminates Commissioners.
(Source: US Department of Defense)
“Like DLI, [NPS] has officers from all branches, plus a large contingent of international officers,” Farr says. “In both schools, the faculty are civilian and are permanent while the command is military and changes periodically. So you have continuity of command by service, but no continuity of command by personality.”
Cohn stresses that there is an important difference between consolidating the schools’ installations and consolidating the schools’ missions.
“They are in very different businesses with very different customers,” he says. “The two students are very different from one another but there may be some opportunities for consolidation regarding the schools’ administration and support function that may save some money and make things run more smoothly.
“I’m asking these questions rhetorically, but do you need multiple public affairs organizations, registrars, libraries, record keeping, and technology centers? I’m not saying we should consolidate the teaching or curricula, but maybe some of the behind-the-scenes stuff merits some consideration.”
Regardless, Mauz and Cohn stress that any consolidation of DLI and NPS remains nothing more than a suggestion for the time being.
“It’s just one of a lot of different ideas,” Mauz says. “It’s not even a proposal yet. We have to wait to see what the proposal is before we start forming opinions about whether or not it’s a good idea.”
Monterey officials and Farr say they are less enthusiastic about the other possible scenario, which would see DLI and NPS combined with Ohio’s Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT).
“Monterey has historically not gone out to recruit other communities’ missions to Monterey,” Cohn says. “We’ve consciously avoided that in the past and we don’t intend to start now.”
According to Cohn, NPS and AFIT recently made efforts to reduce overlap in their programs, a fact that may affect the decision to consolidate the two.
“Three or four years ago NPS and AFIT did an extraordinary amount of work to make sure they weren’t duplicating each other’s curricula, but were complementing them,” he says. “I think that further reduces the rationale to consolidate.”
Still, Cohn is quick to point out that the city will support whatever decision BRAC and the Department of Defense makes.
“We’re on the sidelines right now, but if the commission decides to bring AFIT in, we will support that decision,” he says.
Number four among the Naval Postgraduate School Web site’s “Six Most Frequently Asked Questions” is: “Why not educate officers at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT)?”
In response, the Web site lists numerous reasons including: a different mission than AFIT; that, as a joint corporate university, NPS is used extensively by the other US military services; that NPS has 1,500 student officers in residence with a capacity for 2,000, while AFIT accommodates 400 students with an Air Force focus; and that NPS responds directly to the specific needs of the Combatant Commanders and military through education, targeted research projects and theses.
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Despite BRAC’s request for an explanation about why NPS and DLI are not being considered for consolidation or realignment, there does not appear to be any threat of either school’s closure.
According to the California Capitol Hill Bulletin from The California Institute for Federal Policy Research, Secretary of the Navy Gordon England says that the Navy “ended up deciding that professional military education is hugely important.”
In the May 20 bulletin, England says that the unique strengths of NPS and DLI provide “too much value going forward for the nation” to close them, and that the move would be “too long a leap, not worth the money.”
In addition, Farr recently discovered that the Cost of BRAC Recommended Actions (COBRA) report issued earlier this year by the US Government Accountability Office had overstated the projected savings of closing NPS. The analysis reported that closing NPS would save $90 million a year and $1.12 billion over 20 years.
While reviewing the reports, Farr’s staff noticed that the Navy had failed to take into account more than 1,900 students attending “short” courses at NPS. As a result, Farr has formally asked the Navy to recalculate their savings numbers, taking the missing 1,900 students into account.
Farr expects that the recalculated savings, which should be finished in time for the July 18 hearing, will be considerably lower than the $1.21 billion figure initially presented by the Navy.
Regardless of that figure, Farr believes that NPS is in no danger of being closed simply because the Department of Defense recently ranked NPS highest among academic institutions in the military.
“The Navy found the highest value of all the institutions they were looking at was NPS,” Farr says. “They concluded there is a great deal of military value to educating officers at a military university instead of a private one.”
The bottom line of this whole discussion, Farr says, is saving money, and both Farr and Cohn believe millions can be saved if the city of Monterey adopts base operations support at NPS like it does for DLI.
“The city of Monterey takes care of all the roads, landscaping, and public works of DLI on a contract from the Army and they save the Army roughly $4 million a year,” Farr says. “The City has offered the same contract to the Navy and after several years the Navy’s still considering the deal. Nonetheless, in regards to saving money, this is a good first place to look.”