60 staffers needed in a hurry for frenzied BRAC process

With just weeks to go until the next base-closure round gets into full swing, leaders of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission are hurriedly trying to prepare for four months of frenzied analysis and cross-country travel. The commission must be running at full capacity by May 16, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s realignment and closure recommendations must be given to the commission.

With just weeks to go until the next base-closure round gets into full swing, leaders of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission are hurriedly trying to prepare for four months of frenzied analysis and cross-country travel.

The commission must be running at full capacity by May 16, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s realignment and closure recommendations must be given to the commission. Between now and then, commission officials must recruit dozens of staffers and bring nine appointed commissioners up to speed on intricate BRAC laws and regulations.

Then there is a week of hearings with testimony from Pentagon and military leaders. In-house analysis begins. Travel schedules are arranged. Fifteen regional hearings are planned. And commissioners and staff span the country reviewing the Pentagon’s recommendations before dropping their own list to Congress by Sept. 8.

More than 100 bases, or one-quarter of the military’s installations, could make Rumsfeld’s list. And at least one commissioner and several staff members must visit each of those bases by September and evaluate them on eight preset criteria, including their value to the military.

“We have a very, very demanding schedule,” said Charlie Battaglia, a former staff director for the Senate Veterans Affairs and Intelligence committees who was named the commission’s chief of staff April 5.

For the most part, this commission is starting from scratch, with no infrastructure left over from the series of BRAC commissions in 1991, 1993 and 1995. The process also was delayed a bit when Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) put a hold on the nomination of Anthony Principi, Bush’s pick for commission chairman, because of Lott’s opposition to domestic base closings. The president used his recess-appointment powers to put the commissioners in place April 2.
Since then, Battaglia has moved into office space on Jefferson Davis Highway in Crystal City, Va., and has quickly hired 30 staff members, many of whom have been involved in previous BRAC processes. He still must recruit another 60 people — mostly administrative staff and associate analysts — for yearlong positions.

Sometimes it’s a tough sell, he said.

“What’s working against me is this is a grueling effort,” Battaglia said. “Several people who have signed on and then thought about it over the weekend have decided to back out. It’s a six- to seven-day-a-week job and long hours.”

But for those who are up to the task, a BRAC staffer position can be a good way to conclude a government career or help propel a Washington career forward.

Typically, staff members are either nearing their retirement or are young government employees who want to add an independent presidential commission to their r