State leaders object to plan moving military planes, jobs

Middle River airport losses to be topic at hearing

July 08, 2005|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Maryland leaders largely support the Pentagon's military base relocation plan that would bring thousands of jobs to the Baltimore area, but they intend to sound off today about the part of the proposal that would move planes and take jobs from the Air National Guard base at Martin State Airport in Middle River.

The leaders will give their views during a regional hearing in Towson of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which recommended the changes.

Lawmakers and other state officials said in interviews that they planned to praise the overall proposal, which is expected to bring 6,600 jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade, along with an estimated $3 billion in additional federal spending.

"On the whole, we're very happy," said Aris Melissaratos, secretary of the state Department of Business and Economic Development. "We're a net gainer, with higher-paying science jobs."

But after the Pentagon announced the base relocation plan in May, state and Baltimore County officials have been lobbying the Defense Department to reverse its proposal to move eight C-130J cargo aircraft and more than 100 jobs to Air National Guard bases in California and Rhode Island.

Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, said he has argued that the move would diminish the force's ability to provide security in the important New York-Washington, D.C. corridor, and to react to natural disasters and other emergencies in the area.

Tuxill has also said that as many as 400 reservists who have helped in Iraq and Afghanistan would leave the service without planes to fly and work to do in the area.

"It has a national consequence, and I don't think that's fully understood," Tuxill said.

Maryland's congressional delegation, while lauding the overall plan, has gently criticized the proposal to move the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Bethesda to Fort Belvoir in Virginia. And it has expressed concern about the impact on the Maryland Air National Guard.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said in a statement yesterday that she "opposed" the recommendation to move the eight cargo planes from Martin State Airport and that she planned to ask military officials at the hearing today to drop the idea of moving the eight cargo planes from the Warfield Air National Guard Base at Martin State Airport.

The base realignment commission, which held a similar meeting in Washington yesterday, is holding hearings around the country to gather feedback.

It is scheduled to convene at 8:30 a.m. in Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium to hear how the plan affects Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

Maryland's two U.S. senators, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. are among the scheduled speakers. They have an hour to talk. Members of the public can attend but will not be able to speak.

The speakers intend to praise the overall proposal and say the state has the schools, roads and skills to handle the new deployments.

New Jersey and Delaware officials are expected to be critical. About 200 employees and citizens from Fort Monmouth in New Jersey are taking buses to the hearing. That base would lose 2,000 science and engineering jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground. Military officials expect hundreds of base personnel and residents from Delaware to come as well.

Sun staff writer Sara Neufeld and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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