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News Maryland Harford County Aberdeen / Havre De Grace

Harford leaders fear up to 4,300 jobs could be lost at Aberdeen Proving Ground

Aberdeen Proving Ground could possibly lose up to 4,300 jobs, as a recent Army assessment put stark numbers on what had been a more vague threat, and Harford County is mobilizing to prevent it.

The Army Alliance, a Harford County-based group that advocates for the installation, is joining other military stakeholders to let the public know about the impending danger to jobs on post and that such losses usually translate to more reductions among employers off-post.

A public forum to discuss the threat, which is being labeled a Community Call to Action, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 4 at Aberdeen High School.

The Army's 2020 Force Structure Realignment had previously suggested cuts to the national force, but a more recent report released June 26, called the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment, or SPEA, shows active-duty Army personnel could be cut from 570,000 to 490,000 overall, with sequestration further reducing the number to 420,000.

The cuts, which could hit any of nine installations nationwide, affect two along the East Coast: APG and Fort Meade.

At APG, the assessment is being interpreted to mean there could be 1,000 fewer military jobs and 3,300 fewer civilian jobs, Karen Holt, regional manager of the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor, said Thursday.

Such a reduction would also mean 1,800 possible jobs lost by Harford County residents, as more than half of the APG employees live in Harford, according to Jim Richardson, the county's economic development director.

"That is a pretty big fiscal impact," Richardson said. "That would be like closing down Upper Chesapeake [Medical Center]."

The SPEA report includes a public comment period that runs through Aug. 25. Richardson and Holt said they hope to get the community involved so the Army knows how important APG jobs are to the area.

Holt noted that community involvement and public forums made a difference in 2005, when a major BRAC process was getting started and ultimately affected APG to the good.

"I think when you see a future challenge, it again just reinforces how coming together and staying on track is the way forward for APG," Holt said, adding that residents or community stakeholders may even consider signing a statement in support of the Army's activities in Harford.

"I think the real intent is to look at creating a unified community response," she said.

Richardson said other studies have been done about the Army's figure, but none laid out the numbers as specifically as this one.

"This is the first study that we have seen where there was an actual number put out and where they are actually asking for public comment," he said.

The SPEA report is called a "pre-discussional document," but Richardson said: "Nevertheless, my opinion is you really have to respond to something like this."

"We want to make sure APG and Harford County are well-represented in this regard," he said.

"That type of reduction will clearly impact the mission of APG," he added. "In my opinion, that is not a good decision because of the sensitivity and the nature of the work that is being done on APG."

Richardson said the plan is to address the issue in a respectful manner and to show the decision the Department of Defense is making would be a big one.

"We have had a lot of debate, internally, about how to address this," he said. "I am trying to be respectful to the Department of Defense but, again, this is huge."

"Our goal on the [forum on the 4th] is not to complain," Richardson added about the call to action. "We want to show how important APG is to Harford County."

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