The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recently agreed to study the regional impact of the Pentagon's proposed plan to close, realign or expand military facilities. David J. Robertson, executive director of COG, answered questions about the study submitted by e-mail.
QWhat is the purpose of the study?
AThe Pentagon plan may impact thousands of jobs in dozens of buildings across the region. The 19 COG member jurisdictions establish and promote policies that enhance the quality of life and competitiveness of the region, and believe it is important that we examine the regional impact of the Pentagon recommendations on transportation, congestion, infrastructure needs, air quality and building setback standards.
When will it be finished?
This work must be done quickly. Base Realignment and Closure Commission site visits and hearings have already begun. The Council of Governments has called for a special hearing in the region to consider the extraordinary impact here. Analysis will be completed by mid-July in time for the Council of Governments to consider the impacts and advance any policy recommendations to the commission, Congress and President Bush. Final federal action on the Pentagon recommendations is expected in the fall.
What are some of the impacts of the base closing/realignment that you will examine?
The COG currently projects future population, housing and job growth in the region. We will study how the base reduction and realignment plan may affect these forecasts. We plan to look at the effect on travel times and congestion, whether relocations increase or decrease Metro and other transit use, the impact on air quality, and how Pentagon recommendations may concentrate or disperse development. We are also concerned that other federal agencies may eventually adopt anti-terrorism building standards similar to those approved by the Defense Department that will make it very difficult to locate any federal office building in urban or suburban communities, particularly near transit. We will be comparing the Defense Department anti-terrorism building standards to those drafted by the General Services Administration for other federal agencies. COG also wants to see how the Pentagon plan could affect regional efforts to achieve balanced and sustainable growth and development.
Some jurisdictions, such as Arlington County, could be losers from the Pentagon recommendations because they could lose workers in leased office space. Some jurisdictions, such as Fairfax and Anne Arundel counties, could be winners because they will gain workers. How will the study fairly deal with these differing viewpoints among the jurisdictions?
The Council of Governments has been careful not to view this as winners and losers. We want what is best for the national capital region. Close-in jurisdictions may have more uncertainty because they have more federal workers whose jobs could move elsewhere in the region. Other jurisdictions may stand to gain some of those jobs. Several of the sites targeted by the commission could also be ideal candidates for redevelopment that ultimately strengthens the community and region. The national capital region has a tremendously strong economy, and federal jobs and contractors are a critical part of that strength. Ultimately, we want to keep as many of the jobs as we can here and not see the jobs migrate to other parts of the country while adhering to our region's established land use and transportation vision. This is something that everyone can agree on.