The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments weighed in yesterday on a Pentagon plan to move more than 25,000 defense jobs from the core of the Washington area, voting to analyze the impact on the region's land use, roads, air and economy.
The panel's action was not without discord, however. While representatives from close-in suburbs such as Arlington warned of negative effects on traffic, tax revenue and urban planning, those from jurisdictions outside the Capital Beltway -- which would gain thousands of defense jobs under the proposal -- said no one should prejudge the study's findings.
In all, the Pentagon proposed to close or downsize more than 800 military installations nationwide to save $49 billion over 20 years. The nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission announced this week that it will hold at least one public hearing in the Washington area, in addition to 16 others planned across the country in the next month, before it delivers a final version of the plan to President Bush by Sept. 8. The president and Congress then must approve or reject the list in its entirety.
The local schedule is still being determined, BRAC spokesman Robert J. McCreary said, but a spokesman for Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) said a Northern Virginia hearing is tentatively scheduled for July 7. A spokeswoman for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said Norton has been told by the commission's leaders that a hearing will be held in the District.
D.C. and Northern Virginia leaders are fighting the Pentagon's proposal. The District would lose 6,000 jobs, mostly from the closing of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest Washington and the relocation of its functions to a renamed Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda and to Fort Belvoir in southeastern Fairfax County.
Arlington and Alexandria would lose almost 23,000 defense workers housed in leased office space. The office buildings do not meet new Pentagon requirements that structures be set back at least 82 feet from traffic to protect against truck bombs, and the leases also conflict with Pentagon guidelines to reduce the concentration of defense workers in the capital area.
Fort Belvoir would gain up to 18,400 jobs, Quantico Marine Corps Base in northeastern Prince William County would gain 3,000 jobs and Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County would gain 5,400 jobs.
At yesterday's COG meeting, Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette (D) was the leading critic of the Pentagon plan.
Fisette said the Defense Department's guidelines on workplace security will set a damaging precedent for other government agencies. Such measures could erode local property tax bases by moving defense agencies from private buildings onto military bases and undo years of planning to concentrate growth around mass transit centers and discourage sprawl, he said.
"The bottom line is, in two-thirds of the [Pentagon] criteria, leased space by definition ranked at the bottom just because of the assumption that leased space is bad and owned space is good," Fisette said. "To the degree we take off our parochial hats and think about regional planning and urban development issues, I think it's good we do that."
But other COG members said some of the changes could be positive.
Montgomery County Council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) said: "We've got a lot of open federal land. So does Prince George's County. There may be differences of opinion about how the region should address the issue of owned versus leased space."
"Everyone has a different viewpoint on things," said Prince William Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Dumfries), echoing colleague Hilda M. Barg (D-Woodbridge) in saying that the county is planning for new buildings with Quantico officials.