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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A new Government Accountability Office report concludes overseas regional commands — especially in locations like South Korea — should clearly identify factors such as residual property value and environmental issues when developing base relocation plans.

According to the “Defense Infrastructure” report issued by the agency — formerly known as the General Accounting Office — “the extent to which these factors affect costs can vary by regional command by international agreements reached with host nations.”

The report has largely positive things to say about two U.S. military relocation initiatives in South Korea. Under the first, the report said, the United States will reduce the number of major installations from 41 to 10 over the next few years. The timeline for that program, called the Land Partnership Plan, was partially moved up last week at the 10th Future of the Alliance Talks, with some bases now being handed over earlier than planned.

Under a separate initiative, also finalized at the most recent FOTA (Future of the Alliance) talks, the United States will move its 7,000 soldiers from Yongsan Garrison to an expanded base in the Pyongtaek area.

In the GAO report, which is nonbinding but serves as background and recommendations to various Congressional Committees, the property returns involved in both adjustments are seen as models for future base relocations.

“Property returns are expected to be an integral part of future overseas basing changes and, depending on circumstances, may or may not require replacement facilities overseas,” the report read.

The report also analyzes proposed troop movements in Japan and the European theater. One key difference between Europe and the Pacific, the report found, was the costs to date of environmental cleanups at facilities to be returned.

“Environmental remediation has become a more important issue in recent years in some Asian countries, unlike countries in the EUCOM area of responsibility where environmental remediation has been an ongoing issue since at least the early 1990s,” the report read.

“For example, component commands in South Korea and Japan have incurred limited costs to date, while in EUCOM potential costs for environmental remediation are estimated at about $90 million, regardless of whether the property is returned.”

The report concludes with the contention that many overseas commands are waiting to complete “comprehensive master plans” until the completion of the Integrated Global Presence and Basing Strategy from the Pentagon.

In an afterword containing comments on the report from the Philip W. Grone, principal assistant deputy under secretary of defense (Installations & Environment), the Pentagon “partially concurred” with the recommendations.

The most important difference, the afterword said, was that “the department did not concur that master plans should include assessments of residual value or multiple funding sources.”


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