Md. decides to pick its battles with DOD

FEDERAL WORKERS

July 29, 2005|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,SUN STAFF

MARYLAND WILL not be joining two states in lawsuits against the Defense Department over a proposal to remove all aircraft from nearly two dozen Air National Guard bases, including eight cargo planes from the Martin State Airport in Baltimore County, a state official said this week.

The lawsuits filed by Pennsylvania and Illinois challenge whether the Pentagon has the authority to reconfigure state-run Guard units without the approval of the state's governor, whose right to form militias is guaranteed in the Constitution. The suits contend that base-closing statutes can't supersede the Constitution.

In a memo obtained by CongressDaily, a lawyer for the Base Realignment and Closure Commission sided with the states, saying that such moves made without a governor's consent may be unconstitutional.

A spokeswoman for BRAC said this week that the commission is seeking additional opinions from a Pentagon attorney and the attorney general's office.

Meanwhile, Air National Guard leaders and Air Force officials are trying to broker a compromise. State adjutant generals have said that the Air Force shut them out of BRAC discussions.

Maryland's eight C-130J cargo planes and more than 100 reserve jobs would be shipped to Rhode Island and California under the proposal.

Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill told The Sun this month that the removal of the planes would create a loss of interest among his troops, given that they would no longer have aircraft to fly or repair. He also told members of the BRAC commission that after the move, the nearest airlift planes would be in Youngstown, Ohio.

Aris Melissaratos, Maryland's economic development secretary, said he isn't going to complain about this issue because the overall picture for high-tech and job growth in the state is bright under the BRAC plan.

"Our position is that we support the BRAC recommendations," he said. "I have to be very careful because I'm playing around with 10,000 potential jobs, and those airplanes would only cost 150."

The nine-member commission has until Sept. 8 to send its recommendations to the White House. President Bush must say yea or nay by Sept. 23, and then the list goes to Congress, which also accept or reject the list in its entirety.

Some members of Congress have threatened to delay the process or cut off money for the closures and relocations because of the large economic toll some states face under the plan.

Regionally, the greatest concern is the abandonment of millions of square feet of leased office space in Northern Virginia because it doesn't meet security standards. Maryland stands to gain some of those jobs, but it is unclear what the changes will mean for the entire Baltimore-Washington corridor.

The writer welcomes your story tips and ideas. She can be reached at melissa. harris@baltsun.com or 410-715-2885. Back issues of Federal Workers can be read at www.baltsun.com/federal.

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