Maryland preparing for possible military base job cuts

April 17, 2001|By David S. Iannucci

ALONG WITH officials in Harford, St. Mary's and Charles counties, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) is concerned about the potential for jobs cuts at Maryland's military installations in coming years.

The reason is that 1995 closings of military facilities in Maryland cost the state jobs.

Maryland ranks fifth in the nation in receipt of Pentagon dollars. About 100,000 direct jobs -- both military and civilian -- are tied to the bases and facilities in Maryland. These jobs provide about $3.6 billion in salaries and conservatively generate $9 billion in business.

To assure that the state is prepared for possible realignments, DBED established the Office of Military and Federal Affairs in August 1999 to monitor federal, state and local actions that have an impact on Maryland military installations and federal facilities. Gov. Parris N. Glendening appointed retired Marine Brig. Gen. J. Michael "Mike" Hayes to head the office.

With 33 years of military experience, Hayes plays an important role in shaping the job-retention strategies that the state and counties will use to shore up the jobs that military facilities provide in Maryland.

Other efforts are also already underway.

Harford County Executive James M. Harkins has been working with officials at Aberdeen Proving Ground to prepare for potential risks posed by future base closings.

No state can know for certain if any of their bases are in danger. It is in Maryland's best interest to assume that any of our facilities might be vulnerable and to craft a strategy that will make clear that the functions performed there are not redundant and that they are valuable to the military and the security of the nation.

Partnerships, akin to the Southern Maryland Naval Alliance recently announced by the governor, will be critical to the success of keeping these at-risk jobs in Maryland.

Maryland's military facilities are actually well positioned to play an expanded role as the new administration and Congress review steps necessary to reshape and refocus our defense posture.

Change -- perhaps even revolutionary change -- looms, and world-class research, test and evaluation facilities at Aberdeen, Patuxent River, Indian Head, Adelphia, Bethesda and Fort Detrick are all staffed and equipped to play vital roles.

DBED has targeted key industry sectors in Maryland -- such as information technology, bioscience, photonics, financial services and manufacturing -- because these are the kinds of highly skilled, high paying jobs that will be in demand in years to come.

And these are the segments that military bases should be looking toward as well.

David S. Iannucci is Maryland's secretary of business and economic development

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