Federal employees hold little optimism that the Defense Department’s Base Realignment and Closure effort will make their lives, their jobs and the government at-large better.
In a Federal News Radio survey of federal employees and contractors, 49 percent of the 468 respondents said BRAC consolidation will not help civilian agencies, contractors and other DoD offices collaborate more effectively with those military offices that are moving under the initiative.
“Much DoD official business is conducted with Pentagon offices and moves will greatly disrupt this relationship,” wrote one respondent.
Another said, “My office was relocated by the 1995 BRAC. We were moved away from our customer base and the day that the organization could fold and realign, it did just that. The move was a TOTAL WASTE.”
But another said the real improvements will be seen after the initial emotional transition is over and the organizations settle in. That’s when the respondent believes communication and collaboration will get better.
Additionally, 31 percent of the respondents whose work site changed because of BRAC said the ability for their office to carry out their mission will either decrease somewhat or decrease significantly.
“Mark Center will on one hand improve by having DoD in one location, but [the] impact [will] decrease by being harder to get to the Pentagon,” said one respondent.
Another said employees will have to adjust to a new way of communication.
“[I] anticipate less ‘team face-to-face’ time due to competing flex schedules and more time away from the office (meetings, appointments, etc. will take longer). I also anticipate that we’ll lose several personnel due to dissatisfaction with the commuting situation.”
But another respondent believes location doesn’t matter as much.
“I don’t see that it will have much effect. DISA’s ability to collaborate or not is driven more by organization culture and politics than by geography,” the answerer said.
The change in commute dominated the comments and concerns from respondents. More than half of all respondents believed their commute would increase, while 38 percent said they have to change offices, and only six percent said they would have a shorter commute.
Many respondents expressed frustration over the commute and the lack of parking at the Mark Center in Alexandria, Va.
One said, “To mandate these moves without considering the existing roadways is insane.”
Another respondent said they are not being affected by moving of offices but the change in the number of people at the National Naval Medical Center is worrisome.
“I work at the NIH. New buildings have been created at Navy to accommodate the influx of staff and patients from Walter Reed. However, the roads have not widened, metro is already heavily utilized, and it is obvious that no one thought about the already heavily traveled roads around these complexes. I know this will severely impact my commute and it is clear that those who do not work in either of these locations are making the decisions. It is also obvious that analyses of future impact were not performed. Is this just another way of downsizing government? By making commutes so terrible that employees no longer want to, or are even able to, get to work?”
Another respondent said the impact on their day-to-day environment is much more direct.
“Lost approximately 10 percent of my mission and workforce due to BRAC cuts,” the answerer said.
BRAC’s effect on employee mission also was another common theme from the respondents to the survey. The study found 23 percent said BRAC was a major disruption to their mission, 22 percent said BRAC provided some disruption and six percent said BRAC was not disrupting their ability to meet the agency’s mission.
“The focus shifted from the mission to the BRAC move resulting in less benefit for our ultimate customers – the warfighter and the taxpayers,” commented one respondent.
Another said, “My office is currently working on a major audit and this move cuts into the end of when it is due. There is a chance that the audit will not get to Congress in time because we will be moving to the new site.”
But another person surveyed said, their agency prepared well for BRAC. “There will always be some disruption with any major move. But I think our agency did a really good job of organizing the move in increments spread out over a nine-month period.”
Others said the disruption is only for a short term.
“We’ve been in meetings for years now and it’s really starting to ramp up as our move date gets closer. A good number of people are being pulled out of their day-to-day jobs to participate in these. When it comes to moving, we expect to mitigate the impact by increasing telework as much as possible, but there will still definitely be a disruption of some order,” one respondent said.
Teleworking will not play as big of a role as DoD officials have hoped, at least initially.
Of the respondents, 57 percent said they do not plan on teleworking more because of BRAC, while 22 percent said they did.
Several respondents said their management doesn’t support telework.
“[W]ould love to, however, management limits teleworking to those individuals who process piecework … if you process X number of documents per day, you can telework because management has something to count for your efforts. Those of us who don’t process piecework for a living are not allowed to telecommute. Well, just in our division. It’s not the same mindset in other divisions in our agency.”
Several respondents say their position or job doesn’t allow for telework.
This is one of the reasons why the Defense Information Systems Agency built the first secure telework center in Woodbridge, Va. The center is only for DISA employees, which explains why 73 percent of the respondents were not familiar with the facility.
Almost 20 percent, however, said they did know about it and 6.4 percent said they plan on using DISA’s secure telework center.
Overall, the anxiety level about the change in commute, the cost to DoD and the overall impact on employees’ working environment is high. Respondents blame poor planning, lack of forethought and many believe DoD and Congress should be investigated because of the shortcomings.
“A good plan in theory that has gone horribly, horribly wrong in execution, causing major disruption to the entire D.C. area and costing taxpayers billions of dollars,” one respondent said.
Another said, “An investigation (congressional, criminal, etc.) should be done on how the Mark Center was selected over two other locations that were significantly closer to public transportation sites (Metro, VRE). How those two other locations [were] not selected has to be criminal.”
Others, however, were more pragmatic in their overall take of BRAC.
“Congress should study the actual costs of BRAC. It definitely did not save the dollars it was supposed to save. It actually cost millions of dollars more than projected when they take into account the actual costs, some of which were not even included in the original cost savings study, i.e. paying people at two locations doing the same work or no work at all because the job already transferred, cost of building renovations for the agencies that will be moving into the existing facility (electrical, plumbing, flooring), cost of reorganization moves at the new facility that are being done over and over as additional people are hired to replace the ones who did not move. There are also the costs of the items that are being destroyed at the closing agency, i.e. documents, furniture, books, etc. and the cost for the actual destruction of these materials. And what about the cost that can be attached to loss of years of skilled knowledge that was tossed aside in the name of BRAC and replaced with still wet-behind-the-ears new hires with no one to train them because no one moved to the new location,” said one respondent.
And yet another offered an idea to help deal with the complications brought on by BRAC.
“I suggest that the agencies affected by BRAC create an employee exchange program. That would not only help the employees, but will eliminate a lot of traffic off the major highways. I live in Maryland by Ft. Meade and my job is relocating at the Mark Center in Va. DISA and a couple of other agencies are moving from the D.C. area to Ft. Meade, Md. I am sure that they have employees that will be commuting from Va. to Md. With an employee exchange program they could exchange employees of equal grade and series, make us happy and keep all those people off the streets. Just an idea,” the answerer said.
And finally, one positive comment.
“It could have been worse for me. It may actually open up opportunities to expand my skill set and have opportunities to work in different areas without a big sacrifice in commuting and other issues. It also makes it easier to solve problems and track down people because we will all be in the same building.”
Federal News Radio conducted this random survey of federal employees and government contractors via its website, FederalNewsRadio.com between April 25 – May 5. Federal News Radio received 468 total respondents. Of the respondents, 56 percent said they were DoD employees, 31 percent were civilian employees, five percent were intelligence agency employees and seven percent were contractors. Ninety-three percent of those who said they work for DoD were civilian employees, while 1.4 percent were uniformed employees. And, 82 percent of all respondents were GS-11 or above and 71 percent have been in government for at least 11 years.
Finally, 58 percent said they are following the BRAC initiative closely, while 31 percent said they knew the basics about BRAC.