This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Institutionalization of Military Base Closing




Schwalbe, Stephen

Type of Degree



Political Science


The reason the theory of institutionalization is so important is that it provides the basis for optimum efficiency and effectiveness, two pillars of public administration, within government organizations. Administrative efficiency is increased when organizations specialize by function and place. If independent commissions can become institutionalized, then Congress needs to ensure those that qualify are provided with the mandate and resources to remain institutionalized. Although the institutionalization of ad hoc government organizations, such as independent commissions, appears counter-intuitive, this paper argues that select independent commissions that are periodically reestablished to perform a needed service can become institutionalized over time. Once an organization is recognized as an institution, it gains more legitimacy and authority, leading to greater effectiveness. Independent commissions serve numerous functions in the U.S. government. They include: 1) provide policy recommendations and regulatory oversight based on expertise and experience; 2) investigate the sources of a crisis; 3) offer shield against voter retribution; 4) demonstrate a symbolic response to a crisis; 5) opportunity to determine voter desires or to garner voter support; 6) avail as the option of last resort; 7) resolve problems between the Executive and Legislative Branches of government; and, 8) educating and persuading the public, government officials, as well as commissioners. Congress, following the recommendations of the Grace Commission, established an independent commission to recommend military base closings to reduce the military’s infrastructure-force size gap. The General Accounting Office reported that despite the significant base closures of four rounds of base realignment and closure (BRAC) commissions since 1988, the Department of Defense (DoD) continues to maintain a large amount of excess infrastructure, especially in its support functions. Each service maintains its own facilities and capabilities for performing many common support functions and, as a result, DoD has overlapping, redundant, and underutilized infrastructure. Like a perfect storm, changes in the global military posture in the twenty-first century, and the need to reduce overhead combined to offer DoD the perfect opportunity to balance its infrastructure using the proven BRAC process. When assessing a subjective issue such as when an organization becomes an institution, there is no clear-cut line that one can use to claim transformation. However, as a qualitative case study, we can still draw conclusions. In the case of BRAC independent commissions, it satisfied each of the measurements of the four criteria established to determine institutionalization: complex, sentient, evolving, and essential. As such, it would be logical to declare that BRAC commissions have achieved institution status, and therefore they should receive similar government support as other federal institutions, such as annual funding and permanent staffing.