WASHINGTON -- The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission today intends to settle once and for all whether it will be stepping on anyone's toes by reviewing military laboratories.
Members of Congress have pleaded and demanded that the commission remove military labs from its "hit list" of 71 bases to be closed or realigned, saying an advisory panel set up specifically to examine the military's laboratory system is more suited to decide the fate of the facilities. The list includes six Maryland facilities, putting more than 3,000 military and civilian jobs at risk.
But Alex Yellin, a staff member for the base commission, said Charles E. "Pete" Adolph, chairman of the lab commission, told him yesterday that the lab panel does not intend to consider closures and encouraged the base commission to continue on its path.
"They have given us every indication they want us to go ahead," Yellin said.
Base closure commission Chairman James Courter, who has been at the receiving end of Congress' wrath, repeatedly asked Yellin to repeat Adolph's position and then asked if legislators knew that the lab panel doesn't intend to recommend closures.
"If that's the case, an awful lot of congressmen don't understand what's going on," Courter said. "There's a huge disconnect here."
Rep. Tom McMillen (D-4th) has been leading the group of lawmakers who want the base commission to hold off on its review of military laboratories until the lab panel presents its findings in the fall.
Courter said he wants Adolph to appear before the base commission today to clarify the lab panel's mission.
The base commission members have been trying to decide whether to include labs in the scope of their survey, which must be finished and turned over to President Bush by July 1.
Yellin and David Yentzer, also a base commission staff member, told the base commission members yesterday that the Army and Navy recommendations for lab closures and realignments appear to be reasonable and cost-effective with minimal impacts on the local communities.
The Naval Electronics Systems Engineering Activity in St. Mary's County is the only state lab recommended for closure.
The Maryland labs recommended for realignment are the Navy's David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis, the Naval Surface Warfare Center in White Oak, the Naval Ordnance Station in Indian Head and the Army's Fort Detrick in Frederick and Harry Diamond Laboratories in Adelphi.