The BRAC alphabet soup comes in a booklet

Base relocation guide defines acronyms

October 08, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun reporter

Feeling confused about BRAC?

The logistical, financial and political machinations surrounding the national military base realignment and closure process are complicated enough. But throw in the acronym-steeped terminology government officials use and it's enough to make an average citizen's head spin.

For example, someone who states that "DBED told CSSC that BRAC will send C4ISR jobs to APG and DISA jobs to FGGM" is sure to leave the listener flummoxed.

But not to worry. CSSC - that's the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor - has published "BRACANYMS," a booklet intended to bring linguistic clarity to BRAC discourse. The 12-page glossary seeks to familiarize followers of the BRAC process with the flood of acronyms and abbreviations creeping into the discussion.

"You really need it," said Bill Jones, Baltimore County's BRAC coordinator. "It's like your American Express card - you can't leave home without it."

BRAC will bring about 8,000 jobs from Fort Monmouth, N.J., to Aberdeen Proving Ground, and 6,000 from Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia to Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County. State officials estimate that as many as 60,000 BRAC-related jobs will come to Central Maryland in the next decade.

The idea for the booklet came out of meetings of CSSC, a regional partnership of state and county officials working to prepare for the BRAC influx. Baltimore County's Economic Development Department published 10,000 copies at a cost of about $3,000 and began distributing them at the Maryland Association of Counties conference in August.

"It's our secret decoder booklet," said Fronda Cohen, Baltimore County's marketing director. "We took the acronyms from an Army report and have heard it's just the tip of the iceberg. Still, it's a real asset that we are sharing."

Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, received his copy at a BRAC work force seminar in Harford County last week. In his keynote address, he urged businesses to become familiar with the acronyms.

"We will get more done, if we collaborate, and we will make sure we are saying the right things," he said.

But some are wary of specialized language. There is a certain elitism inherent in acronym-speak, said Linda Coleman, assistant professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"Being in the know about acronyms makes you a member of the `in' group," she said.

Acronyms work for those wanting to quickly coordinate information, said Michael Israel, a colleague of Coleman's at UMCP. But their use can leave the uninitiated out of the conversation.

"These are words put together for secret, logical conformity rather than ease of use," he said. "R2D2 makes perfect sense if you are a robot, but you wouldn't want to name your child with a number."

The CSSC concedes in the booklet's prologue that while many organizations have their own language, some are more determined to transform communication to alphabet soup.

"You are mixing military and government speak," Cohen said. "You just want to run screaming, `I would like to buy a vowel!'"

That's exactly how acronyms work their way into language, Coleman said.

"People insert vowels, and acronyms get pronounced," she said.

The BRAC vernacular shouldn't be surprising, given the proliferation of acronyms in e-mail and text messaging, Coleman said.

"We have a whole generation that is happy to put text into acronyms and initials," she said.

The acronym "BRAC" has been around for as long as the Army has closed, reduced or expanded bases, and warrants the first entry in the 12-page booklet - never mind the deviation from the book's alphabetical ordering.

Most of the entries are Army terms, but a few education, business and government terms are sprinkled in: AACC for Anne Arundel Community College, DPW for any department of public works, and GBBR for the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors all made the list.

Readers might hazard a guess at an acronym's meaning, but often could be wrong. DA is not a district attorney, but the Department of the Army. DAR may be mistaken to refer to the venerable Daughters of the American Revolution, but instead stands for Defense Access Road Program (the "P" is dropped for some reason).

And GIG has nothing to do with hard drive storage, instead referring to the global information grid managed by DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency), which also oversees JTF-GNO (joint task force on global network operations).

Some entries appear easier to untangle. MILCOM refers to military communications, and MILCON to military construction. NETOPS means network operations. But PEO C3T and PEO EIS - references to program, project or product offices coming to APG - might stump an NSA cryptologist.

Some traditional acronyms are pumped up in BRAC-speak. R&D for research and development used to suffice. But a reader who looks up RDT&E will find it to be an Army reference to research, development, testing and evaluation.

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