State Panel Sets Deadline For Job Growth Strategy

By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 31, 2007

A subcabinet created by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley met for the first time yesterday and gave itself a Dec. 1 deadline to develop a strategy to address transportation, education and other needs related to projected job growth from the Pentagon's base realignment plan.

Speaking before the base realignment and closure subcabinet went into a closed session, O'Malley (D) said that the BRAC process -- projected to generate 45,000 to 60,000 federal and private-sector jobs in the state -- would make national security one of "the very strong horses" driving Maryland's future economy.

Although the governor said it is better to be faced with the challenge of adding jobs than "shedding" them, it is "going to be a fight and a struggle every day" to be prepared for the arrival of the workers.

"This is going to be a relentless effort," O'Malley said.

Yesterday's meeting occurred about two years after the Pentagon announced its realignment plan, which calls for military base closures in many states.

But in Maryland, Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County stands to gain about 5,700 jobs directly and thousands more through related businesses. More than 9,000 jobs will go directly to Harford County, home of Aberdeen Proving Ground, and workers will also be added at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County.

With BRAC plans required by law to take effect New Year's Day 2011, the jurisdictions most affected have been working together to adjust their transportation and school construction priorities to meet the influx of workers. The BRAC subcabinet, which includes Cabinet members from transportation, planning and other areas, will serve as a clearinghouse for requests from jurisdictions vying for more $21 billion in BRAC-related transportation money.

"It is through a coordinated effort that we will be able to accomplish this mission," said Asuntha Chiang-Smith, who was introduced yesterday as the BRAC subcabinet's executive director, after having served as administrator of the Office of Military and Federal Affairs in Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development.

A major goal of the subcabinet will be to create a plan to address needs such as transportation, higher education and the availability of housing for the more than 28,000 new households expected in the state.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), who will oversee the subcabinet, said yesterday that members will meet 10 times in the next six months in communities across the state. He said the subcabinet will present a recommendation to the governor for a strategic statewide plan by Dec. 1.

"We have challenges to build roads," he said. "We have challenges to train our workforce."

Brown has previously stressed that much of the BRAC-related planning is underway. For example, transportation projects designed to accommodate BRAC growth are included in the state's seven-year planning cycle and, in some cases, are under construction.

But local jurisdictions have said that many necessary projects won't be completed before the new workers arrive. Rail lines that could alleviate traffic congestion are not fully funded, although a proposed extension of Metro's Green Line north from Greenbelt to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is being studied.

It will be the job of the subcabinet to determine whether any timetables need to be altered.

Brown has emphasized that the base realignment will affect only a portion of the state's growth over the next 15 to 20 years, albeit a significant portion.

"This is the largest single economic growth activity in Maryland since World War II," he said.

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