The president of Harford County's Army Alliance told community leaders Monday federal budget cuts and the uncertainty of any future BRAC process raise plenty of questions about the future of Aberdeen Proving Ground.
"The defense budget is really critical to us at the moment," Jill McClune, the Alliance's leader, said in front of 136 people gathered at the Water's Edge Events Center in Belcamp for the annual dinner of the local non-profit organization, which is made up of government, business and community that lobbies on behalf of the post.
McClune said the post is hoping to avoid another round of sequestration, which she said was "absolutely horrible" last fall but is unlikely to come up this year – at least not until after the November election is over.
"It's really next year that we are worried about, and the real issue is, are we going to go through sequestration again? And nobody really knows, but that is sort of the one thing we don't want to happen again," McClune said.
APG's former commanding general, Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell, returned for the dinner to talk about the Army's new Internet-savvy goals, training "cyberwarriors" and a force that is smaller but more agile.
"We have to do more with less," acknowledged Ferrell, who was promoted to the Army's chief information officer in January and works at the Pentagon.
McClune said with elections approaching, Congress and the administration in Washington do not want voters to face sequestration, which would pose another hit to the economy.
Harford County weathered the most recent recession far better than many other jurisdictions, thanks in large part to the continued focus on expanding APG after the last round of BRAC changes.
The Army, however, has since taken the brunt of cuts to the federal defense budget, McClune said.
After the sequestration, "we have seen a lot of contractors get impacted by that and folks on the post, so we really don't want to go through that cycle again," she said.
Another round of base realignment, or BRAC, also is not expected to come to the U.S. Senate floor until after the fall elections, she said. Though Harford fared well in the last realignment a decade ago, many local leaders say they are concerned what the federal government once gave the county, could just as easily be taken away.
McClune said she hopes the Alliance and other Army stakeholders will continue to be in a position to hold sway over any given BRAC scenario.
She said the Army is especially hoping to avoid a "soft" or "hidden" BRAC, with realignments that are more dispersed and, therefore, less privy to public oversight.
"That is the worst-case scenario," she said. "We really can't predict what will happen, but what we can predict is something will."
McClune also said the Alliance was extremely successful in getting a number of helpful bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly this spring.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun