February 9, 2007
Pg. B1 Anne Arundel, Harford Would Gain Most Spots In Military Realignment
By Raymond McCaffrey, Washington Post Staff Writer
Maryland would gain more than 45,000 federal and private-sector jobs as part of a Pentagon reorganization of military bases that will add workers to installations such as Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground, according to a report to be released today.
The study by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development determined that Harford County, the location of Aberdeen Proving Ground, would gain 12,712 jobs, and Anne Arundel County, home to Fort Meade, would get 10,049 positions.
An additional 4,236 jobs would come to Montgomery, 3,463 to Prince George's and 2,259 to Howard counties, and thousands more to the Baltimore region.
"This is the single largest job growth in Maryland since World War II," said Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), who is coordinating the state's response to the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission plan, known as BRAC.
"I'm enthusiastic about the challenges that we have in front of us," he said.
The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, comes as federal, state and county officials struggle with how to accommodate the additional workers generated as the military consolidates jobs. The report cites projections that BRAC would create a demand for more than 25,000 homes in eight Maryland counties, which local officials say would increase the burden on crowded schools and roads.
Important to the planning process, officials say, will be lining up road-building and school construction projects to correspond with the arrival of new workers.
BRAC will involve a redeployment of workers from military installations closer to Washington. Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County also stands to add tens of thousands of jobs, with defense contractors and related businesses following the military workforce.
Technically, the BRAC shifts would move 5,400 jobs to Fort Meade and 2,176 jobs to Aberdeen. But those figures are expected to grow quickly as contractors relocate their offices.
The overwhelming majority of new homes in Maryland would come with the personnel shifts at those two bases, with 1.9 percent of the new households coming from job growth at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's, according to the state Planning Department. The effect of growth at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda was neutralized by a corresponding shift of positions there from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, about six miles away.
"The report is beginning to give us a baseline of what to expect in terms of the influx of jobs, the influx of households and the demands that that will place on the infrastructure, whether that be transportation, schools, workforce," Brown said.
Brown said state officials hope to develop an "action-oriented strategic plan" to deal with BRAC by mid-fall. Meanwhile, county executives representing affected areas are working to create a priority list to try to get key funding for projects. The first phase of the transfer of workers is set to begin by 2009.
"We're all going to provide a blueprint upon which we all can agree -- that's the goal," said Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold (R). "I think the best chance of success is to offer a regional approach with a regional set of priorities."
All said the biggest challenge will be finding money for BRAC-related projects, particularly with indications that federal support might be drying up. "All roads lead to the money bin, and that's what we're looking for," Leopold said.
Legislators are discussing ways to streamline school construction in areas affected by BRAC, and transportation planners are exploring projects that include extending Metro's Green Line north from Greenbelt and the widening or improving of major arteries such as the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and routes 198 and 175, near Fort Meade.
Widening the parkway from Interstate 695 to Interstate 95 will start this spring, said David Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration. Leopold is pressing the state to accelerate the widening of Route 175.
"All these jobs, all this growth, will probably be here in the next five years," Leopold said.
"We understand well the urgency of trying to get things moving now."
Counties such as Anne Arundel and Howard have assigned administrators to oversee their response to BRAC, and Annapolis, which plays an important role in providing area bus service, anticipates appointing someone to oversee the effect of the expansion around Fort Meade.
"We are a major transportation provider," Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer (D) said. "We need to be engaged in the issues relative to BRAC."
The state development department report also details the demands on Maryland's higher-education system in helping to provide training for what is expected to be a highly educated workforce.
Brown said the state will need to forge a partnership with businesses to develop training programs for the workforce, particularly with new jobs indirectly related to the base expansion.
"I imagine a large percentage of those indirect jobs will be filled by Marylanders," Brown said. "That's why we talk about jobs coming to Maryland and not necessarily people."