The Aberdeen Proving Ground
and surrounding areas in Harford County are anticipating
great growth, thanks to the latest BRAC recommendations.
By Robert Salonga
Capital News Service
Friday, Sept. 16, 2005
WASHINGTON - With proposals to trim the nation's military bases
rolling toward approval, Maryland's installations must now begin the
yearslong task of relocating thousands of personnel from inside and
outside the state.
President Bush sent the report of the independent Base Realignment
and Closure commission to the Capitol late Thursday, effectively
guaranteeing its passage.
Though Congress has 45 days to reject the report it has never
happened in four previous rounds of closures dating back to 1988 and is
not expected to happen this time, either.
Maryland was arguably the biggest winner of the current round, as
more than 9,000 personnel will be added or redistributed among its
facilities. The state was also one of the largest beneficiaries from
base closures in neighboring states.
"This influx of thousands of defense-related jobs will help fuel our
state's economy for years to come," Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., said
in a statement.
But now instead of bracing for closures, which occurred earlier in
the year when a handful of Maryland bases were thought to be on the
chopping block, military officials in the state have the new challenge
of merging and expanding their operations.
When the 45-day period expires - making the BRAC report law - all
installations included in the report must initiate changes within two
years and complete them within six years.
Aberdeen Proving Ground expects about 2,200 new personnel and Andrews
Air Force Base is slated to gain 400, according to the commission's
"We've been very busy," said George Mercer, a spokesman for the
Aberdeen base. "Pretty much when the initial BRAC announcement was made,
we were given marching orders to prepare as if this is going to happen."
Fort Meade is by far the largest gainer in the state under the
report's findings, as several military functions scattered across the
country will be consolidated in the complex near Laurel, a personnel
gain of more than 5,300.
The National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda will grow largely
because of its pending merger with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center,
resulting in an influx of nearly 1,900 personnel to Montgomery County.
Spokeswoman Ellen Maurer said the Bethesda center is still holding
off on any expansion moves until the commission's report officially
passes through Congress, but that planning has been in the works for
Maurer did say there is a sense of excitement in the center about
having the best of both military branches' medical staff in one place.
That is, until the Army-Navy football game comes around.
"I don't know what's going to happen, other than more people watching
TV," said Maurer, who served in the Navy before her current position.
"That would be something we should embrace and have fun with."
It is unlikely that Congress will authorize more base closures
anytime in the near future, as this round was particularly painful for
members whose districts suffered closures.
"They will be reluctant to put themselves through this again," said
Christopher Hellman, a BRAC expert with the Center for Arms Control and
Non-Proliferation. "You will need the institutional memory to
But Hellman says there will always be a need for future commissions,
which have been reauthorized over the years to reduce residual excess
since the nation's Cold War-era military buildup. "BRAC is more than
just closing bases. It's about providing the Department of Defense with
the capability to make fairly dramatic changes in their force
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Web by Maryland Newsline's Mike Santa Rita. Banner graphic by Santa
Rita. Stories reported by staffs from the Capital News Service Annapolis
and Washington bureaus, and by Maryland Newsline's Kaukab Jhumra Smith
and Kendra Nichols. Interactive quiz by Nichols. Stories edited for
print by CNS bureau directors Steve Crane and Adrianne Flynn.
2005 University of
Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism