Senate panel approves BRAC funding

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- A Senate panel approved $984.2 million yesterday for military construction in Maryland, including $719.7 million to accommodate the base realignment that is expected to bring tens of thousands of jobs to the state.

The $109.2 billion military construction and veterans affairs bill that was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee includes includes $287.1 million for Aberdeen Proving Ground, $164 million for Fort Meade and $214.8 million for the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

The proposal now heads to the full Senate, with a vote expected this summer.

The figures were announced by the office of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a member of the Appropriations Committee. The Maryland Democrat was not available for comment, a spokeswoman said.

Expansion at Aberdeen in Harford County, Fort Meade in Anne Arundel and other military installations is expected to bring 40,000 to 60,000 new jobs to the state over the next five years.

The military construction bill does not include money to help local communities expand roads, schools and sewer systems to accommodate the expansion. Mikulski's spokeswoman said the senator would seek federal funding for those services in an upcoming transportation spending bill.

The military construction measure includes $245 million for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance - or C4SIR - facilities at Aberdeen Proving Ground. It also includes $27 million for a medical research laboratory for chemical-biological defense and $2.9 million for an Army research laboratory.

Fort Meade would get $152 million for a Defense Information Services Agency building. Fort Detrick in Frederick would get $150 million for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The National Naval Medical Center would get $214.8 million for the new Joint Medical Command headquarters.

A similar spending plan awaits consideration by the House of Representatives. After each chamber has approved its proposal, members from both houses will meet to negotiate a final spending measure.

Also yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $75 million for boat maintenance and repair work at the Coast Guard yard in Curtis Bay.

The funding, with language recognizing the facility as a "critical component" of the Coast Guard's core logistics capability, is part of a $37.6 billion homeland security spending measure for 2008. The Department of Homeland Security requested the money to maintain patrol boats and medium-endurance cutters as part of the Coast Guard's Deepwater program.

The bill also calls for $400 million for port security grants nationwide, nearly double the $210 million approved last year and requested again this year by President Bush. Baltimore was a loser in the most recent round of port security grants, receiving only $1.9 million after getting $4.8 million last year.

The homeland security measure also awaits action by the full Senate.

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