City To Start Seeing BRAC Pay Off

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
San Antonio Express-News
December 7, 2007 By L.A. Lorek, Express-News
One of the largest military construction projects in the city's history is about to burst into action.
By the end of March, the military wants to award $1 billion worth of contracts to construct 78 new buildings in San Antonio. It's part of recommendations from the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, known as BRAC.
"This exceeds San Antonio's normal military construction contract awards by 10 times," said Randy Holman, program management chief at the Joint Program Management Office, which is overseeing the military's contracts. He spoke this week about the BRAC projects to the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board.
Typically, San Antonio sees $65 million to $100 million in annual military construction, he said.
The only hitch — and a significant one — may be the funding for the BRAC projects. It's tied up in a defense appropriations bill that has stalled in Congress.
Holman says he's confident Congress will hand over the money in a timely fashion.
However, Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson, who serves as chairman of the Military Transformation Task Force comprising county, city and Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce leaders, isn't as certain. The money already is a month late, he said.
"The money is not appropriated, yet to do it — you can't let a contract unless you have the money in hand," Larson said. "If they vacillate on making a decision, it jeopardizes the BRAC construction cycle."
Last year, Congress delayed getting BRAC funds to San Antonio, and that caused some design and engineering scheduling delays, Larson said.
"There's been a lot of compression of our timetables," he said. "We're in the same dilemma right now, but we don't have any flexibility in the time schedules."
Getting the BRAC projects funded is critical, said Bob Murdock, director of the city's Office of Military Affairs. Federal fiscal 2008 began Oct. 1 and ideally, the Congress would have passed a budget by then so the projects could begin, he said.
"We're obviously a quarter of the way through this fiscal year without those moneys being allocated," Murdock said. The Army Corps of Engineers "needs those moneys allocated by January to contract the work out and begin the priority projects before they can begin the follow-on projects."
All BRAC construction must be complete by September 2011 under current law.
So far, only Gilbane Building Co. has received a BRAC 2005 contract — the largest one. It's building a $92 million health and trauma center at Fort Sam Houston.
"If Congress doesn't act before the first of the year, we're going to have a significant problem," Larson said. "The impact is not only at San Antonio but Fort Bliss and Fort Hood and other installations around the state that are benefactors of this last BRAC."
The largest BRAC construction and renovation projects focus on what will be known as San Antonio Military Medical Center North and South, currently known as Brooke Army Medical Center and Lackland AFB's Wilford Hall. Plans call for BAMC to be expanded and renovated and Wilford Hall Medical Center to be renovated.
BAMC is scheduled to get a new emergency room tower, two parking garages and a central energy plant and 250,000 square feet will be renovated.
By 2011, San Antonio will have the largest inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities in the military, and all branches of the military medical personnel will receive their training here, Holman said.
In addition, Fort Sam Houston will become the center for the military's medical training programs. Known as the Medical Education and Training Campus, it will include dorms, classrooms, labs, training areas and dining facilities to serve an estimated 9,000 students. A special field medic training center will be set up at Camp Bullis.
In total, the BRAC projects involve $2 billion worth of construction, nearly the scope of two Toyota plants, Holman said. Construction on Toyota's Tundra truck manufacturing plant, which opened in 2006 on the South Side, cost $1.28 billion.
By 2011, an estimated 11,000 new military personnel will move into the new facilities. In addition, another 9,000 students will receive training each year here. That will further contribute to the $13.3 billion estimated impact the military already has on the city, according to a study by the city's economic development department.