United States Air Force: DSS Provides Base Closure Analysis


Driven both by pressures to curb the ballooning federal budget deficit and by a diminished national security threat due to the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Congress passed the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act. This act mandates that in 1991, 1993 and 1995, the Department of Defense (DOD), through an independent Commission, must recommend to Congress which bases should be closed and/or consolidated.

To avoid the politics which plagued previous methods of closing bases, after a review by the President of the United States, the Commission's recommendations must be accepted as a whole, and bases may not be added to or removed from the list.

The Problem

Closing a base has strategic consequences for national defense and tremendous social and economic impact on the surrounding communities. Therefore, it was essential for the Air Force to create an objective framework for formulating the closure recommendations. Any practical analysis methodology had to take into account over two hundred of these military, economic, and social impact characteristics. In addition, any system had to enable the Air Force to perform these analyses not just once, but to allow a variety of ad-hoc analyses of varying base assumptions to ensure that a closure recommendation was truly warranted, and was in the best interest of the nation.

"We had 500,000 data points associated with 105 bases throughout the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, and Guam," comments Lt. Colonel John Murphy, the Air Force Officer directing the development effort. Given the large number of characteristics per base, the number of analyses required, and over one hundred bases to evaluate, the Air Force believed it could deliver more comprehensive, higher fidelity recommendations to Congress by applying decision support technology to the base closure process.

The Solution

The Air Force retained MicroStrategy to create an analytical tool for base closure and recommendation analysis, and to develop a decision support system to help Air Force leaders perform comprehensive single-base impact analyses and cross-base impact comparisons. The methodology developed by MicroStrategy supports both the qualitative and subjective insights provided by members of the Air Force's Base Closure Executive Group (BCEG), the body responsible for making closure recommendations.

A multi-layer, hierarchical filtering process is used to evaluate the relative impact of closing each base. Bases which pose minimum strategic, operational, social, and economic impact are placed at the top of the closure recommendation list.

At any step, BCEG members can review DSS-developed impact analyses to assist in determining which bases should proceed to the next level of analysis.

"Using the DSS, the BCEG members can perform analyses using the 8 main criteria and 212 sub-criteria on which all bases are evaluated. These criteria, specified by DOD, focus on elements that impact operational effectiveness, including such items as alternate airfield availability, weather data, and facility infrastructure capacity," states Lt. Colonel Murphy.

The system can provide both tabular and graphical access to base data, and utilizes customized stoplight-style screens to visually identify and compare bases for each sub-criteria. Using the DSS, BCEG members can modify basic assumptions and/or filter values, rerun an analysis, and receive instant feedback on the sensitivity of the revised criteria. For example, if maximum time to an alternate airfield is increased from 10 minutes to 15 minutes, the system can rerun its analysis and present the results as above, below, or within the revised criteria.

By combining the results of stoplights for groups of bases, the BCEG can easily contrast the impact of closing one base versus another, bringing a high degree of objectivity to a critical stage of the closure analysis. Furthermore, by reducing the cycle time from 6 weeks to 2 days, the Base Closure and Analysis DSS can substantially decrease the time required to do analyses and can increase both the integrity and consistency of the analyses.

The Base Closure and Analysis DSS provides the Air Force with a robust methodology and common framework for analyzing the impact of various base closure scenarios. "The system enables us to sift through mountains of data, and reduce it to usable information for the Air Force leadership. It allows the 8 dod criteria to be consistently and objectively applied. It does not make closure recommendations, but it provides a powerful tool for those who do," summarizes Murphy.

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