The Army reversed course yesterday and said it would move forward with an early transfer of 32 jobs from Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The announcement, released late yesterday by Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, would clear the way for the first contingent of employees to move to Maryland as part of a nationwide shuffle of military bases. The Army statement by did not say when the workers would move, and military spokesmen could not be reached for comment.
Last month, Army officials said plans were on hold to transfer the first contingent of workers from the communications and electronics research center at Monmouth, near the New Jersey coast.
In the statement released last night, the Army's Materiel Command said the change in course was prompted in part out of "concern for the welfare of employees and their families, in particular those with school-age children." It did not elaborate.
The move of about 5,000 civilian defense workers from Monmouth to Aberdeen was ordered in 2005 as part of a national military base realignment and closure process, called BRAC.
New Jersey officials have complained bitterly about the decision to close Monmouth, and they said many workers likely would retire or quit before moving. The state's congressional delegation introduced bills aimed at delaying the Monmouth closure, pointing to a more than doubling in the estimated costs of relocating the work performed there.
The shift of jobs from Monmouth is to be completed by 2011. The base-realignment process is expected to bring Maryland as many as 60,000 jobs.
Yesterday's decision was hailed by members of Maryland's congressional delegation.
"Today's announcement is another step in demonstrating the Army's commitment" to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Mikulski said in a statement. The Army's recommendations "are a testament to the strength of Maryland's military bases, our military and the communities that support them," she said.