Reaction to Air Force Secretary's Comments on GAO Report on Consolidating Laboratories at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-07-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                            DOCUMENT RESUnIE
02767 - [A2033113] '-asatric
[Reaction to Air Force Secretary's Comments on GAO Report on
Consolidating Laboratories at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas].
LCD-77-357; B-172707. Jut     15, 1977. 4 pp. + enclosure   (1 pp.).
Report to Rep. John E. Moss; by Elmer B. Staats, Comptroller
Issue Area: Facilities and Material Management (700).
Contact: Logistics and Communications Div.
Budget Function: National Defense: Defense-relatef. Activities
Organization Concerned: Department of Defense; Department of the
    Air Force: Brooks AFB, TX.
Ccnqressional Relevance: Rep. JohD E. Moss.

          No new information has been adduce' by the Secretary of
 the Air Force that provides a basis to reanalyze the GAO report
 on the consolidation of laboratories at the Brooks Air Force
 Base, Texas, or to challenge its conclusions and
recommendations. Findings/Conclusions: The only significant
change in the Air Force's current estimate of costs arla savings
is the inclusion of $482,600 annual recurring savings, whicL
includes 13 personnel positions judged by GAO to be unjustified
because there was no authorization for these positions. Some
$231,600 of the savings comes from savings on supplies,
equipment, and data processing costs, hut no documentation was
presented to support this. Total consolidation costs are
understated by $137,475. A considerable number of statements by
experts challenge the anticipated benefits of the consolidation
on technical grounds. Space requirements of 75,000 square feet,
the official Air Force position, were accepted by the Secretary.
The Air Force has suspended all construction activities,
including the use of minor military construction fends. As of
June 1977, the Air Force expected continuing favorable
congressional authorization and construction completion at
Brooks, and despite a manpower shortage, laboratory operations
are continuing. (DJM)
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%{\\t   B-172707                                               July '5, 1977

        Honorable John E. Moss
        House of Representatives
 C A .Dear   Congressman Moss:
N4           This is in response to your request for our reaction to
        the June 1st comments, received by you from Air Force
        Secretary Stetson, which addressed our April 6, 1977, report
        on the consolidation of Air Force laboratories at Brooks
        Air Force Base, Texas.
             Our general reaction is that the Secretary's letter has
        not provided any new information which we could cite as a
        basis to reanalyze the Air Force laboratory consolidation
        or to change our conclusions and recommendations.

        Cost- and-Savings
             The only significant change in the Air Force's current
        estimate of cost and savings is its inclusion of $482,600
        annual recurring savings. We have already addressed the
        rema:ning figures in our report.
             Of the alleged savings of $482,600 about $251,000 is
        attributed to the value of 13 spaces which the Secretary
        asserts will be eliminated due to the consolidation. The
        Air Force had previously cited $251,000 as a recurring savings,
        along with a one-time saving of $2.5 million in their
        May 1976 estimate of costs and savings. In the simmner of 1976,
        we pointed out to Air Force personnel that they did not have
        recurring personnel savings because they did not have the
        authorizations for the 13 positions claimed as savings, and
        because they were planning to transfer all 134 authorized
        positions from the three laboratories to the consolidated
        Brooks laboratory. We also advised them that the $2.5 million
        claimed as a cost avoidance for a building also was not
        authorized, but this figure has not been placed back into
        the Air Force estimates.
             As is indicated on the enclosed schedule of Air Force
        estimates, the Air Force deleted the $251,000 annual
        recurring savings from its three successive estimates of
        savings. The Secretary has now placed this figure back into



his current estimates. If such logic was accepted, any
DOD action could be economically justified by simply
adding unauthorized personnel to its estimates. We do
not believe that costs based on such estimates are valid.

     The balance of the $482,600 is a new claim of
$231,600 annual recurring savings for supply, equipment, and
and ADP costs. No such claim had previously been brought
to our attention and the Air Force has provided no documenta-
tion to support it. Should you request the supporting
documentation before accepting the estimate, we would be glad
to review it for you.

     With regard to the Air Force's claim of a one-time
savings of $217,200 for equipment excessed and purchases
avoided, we believe our report supports a position that it
is undocumented.

     with regard to total consolidation costs, the schedule
included in the Secretary's letter shows $974,300.  But it
shows, as foot-note a/, an additional amount of $137,475
which was addressed Tn our report. Therefore the $974,300 is,
in our opinion, understated by $137,475.

Improved Efficiency-and Effectiveness

     The Secretary's letter has reiterated the various antici-
pated benefits of consolidation at Brooks and has tied those
benerLts to a recommendation by Congress to consolidate in
order to achieve greater efficiency and economy.

     Except for the financial aspects of military proposals,
it is difficult to confirm or challenge the accuracy of
anticipated intangible benefits such as assertions of future
improved efficiency. Frequently, such assertions are accept-
able because they are based on reasonable, well planned
efforts and usually are not subject to serious attack on
technical grounds. We have also found that opposition to a
proposed military realignment frequently has as its basis
the financial loss to a community and the reluctance of
people to relocate.

     In this case, however, we have gathered a considerable
number of written and oral statemenis from experts that
challenge the anticipated benefits of the proposed Brooks
consolidation on technical grounds. Examples of those


challenges included in chapter 3 of our report, are from
Air Force military and civilian officials whom we believe
would be acknowledged as experts using the criteria of rank,
title, education, responsibility and years of experience
in the management of the Air Force laboratories. We cannot
evaluate the extent to which their views may have been
influenced by personal factors such as a reluctance to
relocate. However, in view of the experience and qualifica-
tions of these Air Force personnel, we believe their views
should be seriously considered.  In our opinion, the Secretary's
letter to you does not recognize them.

     With regard to the matter of the space requirement of
75,000 square feet discussed in the Secretary's letter, we
reiterate that it was an official 1975 Air Force estimate and
it took into account the need for expanded future mission

     The Air Force states that the 75,000 square foot space
requirement is overstated; that the planned facilities at
Brooks will have 47,997 square feet which will "provide an
adequate but austere environment for economical operation. '

     We have no data from which to comment on the validity
of this assertion.

     The stated need for 75,000 square feet was contained in
the Air Force Envircnmental Assessment of July 1975. Unlike
an Environmental Impact Statement, an assessment does not
require a public hearing at which dissenting opinion must
be heard, made a matter of record, and considered by the
Air Force prior to its final decision. Therefore, the only
official Air Force position rrior to the Secretary's letter
was for 75,000 square feet.

Minor Military-Construction-Funds

     On May 31, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force
(Financial Management) informed us that the Air Force has
suspended all construction activities including the use of
minor construction /unds. He also said that the low,bid
on the primary minor construction project was in excess of
$400,000 and accordingly the Air Force was reassessirng
alternatives. He disagreed that the Air Force programing
action had violated the law or its implementing regulations.

                              -- 3   --

     On June 9, the Acting Deputy Ass .stant Secretary of
                                                       to our
Defense (Logistics) informed us that the formal reply
                                                 the scheduled
report would be forwarded immediately following
June 24 receipt of the Air Force Reevaluation of the
                                                     the reply.
consolidation. ?is rof - ly 12, we have not received

    In our efforts to satisfy your request regarding whether
                                                         a copy
construction activities were continJuing, we obtained
                                           which  states  that
of a June 24 message to the laboratories
the Air Force expects continued favorable congressional    Be-
authorizations and construction completion at Brooks.
cause of expected delays the Air Force has determined
most productive concept to be early location at Brooks
Air FoLce Base of those elements that can be    housed
temporarily in available office  space,  and to  maintair in
place analytical services at existing   operating  locations.
Transfer of workload from McClellan and Wright-Patterson
operating locAtions is planned for the summer of 1978
total phase-out completed not later than September 30,         as
Transfer of civilian personnel from Kelly may be effected
appropriate and hiring may uortinue at Brooks.

     In addition to the June 24 message, we have also been
made aware that the Air Force reported in its June 10,
progress report that, despite a critical manpower  situation,
laboratory operations ace continuirhg and all known require-
ments are scheduled and being supported.

     Our response to your inquiry on the shipment of a exhaust
hood to Texas is now being developed and will be discussed
a separate letter.
                                 Si        yoursX

                                 Comptroller General
                                 of the United States



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