Military Base Closings
Md. stands to gain 6,600 jobs
Realignment proposal would boost Fort Meade, Aberdeen Proving Ground; U.S. hopes to save $50 billion; More than 30 major bases across nation face closure
The state's big bases would get bigger, namely Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, both of which are expected to see an influx of thousands of civilian personnel over the coming years.
St. Mary's County officials were relieved yesterday to learn their community - home to Patuxent River Naval Air Station and its 20,000 employees - wouldn't lose much of its economic engine, a base that a recent study found generates more revenue for Maryland than the Port of Baltimore.
Overall, the Pentagon is recommending shutting roughly 180 of the nation's military installations - including more than 30 major bases, the first round of base closures in a decade. Nearly 30,000 jobs will be eliminated - and nearly $50 billion is expected to be saved over 20 years.
Nothing will be final for months. The highly political process of military realignment is expected to last well into the fall, with the first closures coming next year.
Maryland will also suffer some losses. Some smaller installations will be closed, while the Bethesda-based National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency - which does mapping and analysis of satellite photographs and images for the military - is slated to be moved, which could mean 2,800 jobs heading south to Fort Belvoir, Va., over the next five years.
Md. comes out ahead
But Maryland's installations fared well overall, said several military watchers, because of the tremendous focus here on research and technology, as opposed to basic military training.
"That is the order of the day in the military now - more brainpower-type of facilities," said John Bloom, president of the Indian Head Defense Alliance, a community advocacy group for the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head in Charles County.
"We're obviously very pleased," said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. "This is a very major development in the state of Maryland, not just with respect to the military and our role in national security and the terror war, but also in economic development."
Only Georgia gained more jobs than Maryland, according to Pentagon documents released yesterday.
Fort Meade will add more than 5,300 jobs, more than any other installation in Maryland. Military adjudication, defense information, communications networks and media organizations will be consolidated at the base.
Even though Aberdeen, already Harford County's second-largest employer after the school system, should come out far ahead, the Army base's well-known Ordnance School - and its thousands of jobs - is likely to be sent to Fort Lee, Va.
"It's been here since World War I, very much a part of the community," said Bill Richardson, Harford County's military liaison. "It's unquestionably a major loss."
But losses in places such as New Jersey, Kentucky and Alabama might be the proving ground's gain. A chunk of the military's non-medical chemical and biological defense programs will be consolidated there, as will many communications and electronic programs. "All those civilians coming in - it's pretty much all high-level jobs," Richardson said.
The proposed increases in higher-skilled positions at Maryland's military installations will solidify the state's reputation as a home for technology workers and fuel growth in certain communities.
"We're not an affluent people for nothing," said Baltimore-based economist Anirban Basu. "We're affluent because we're very smart and very educated. This is what separates Maryland from the bulk of the country."
And with every new job, there will be an added boost to the economy.
"The multiplier effect of these jobs in other service industries, on the housing sector, on retail sales, on Little League, on restaurants. ... Anytime you get new jobs it's a good thing," said Charles McMillion, president of MBG Information Services, a business and economics information firm in Washington.