Millions for NSA, academy

U.S. House OKs two big projects

Congress also approves BWI work

November 23, 2005|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

Two spending bills moving through Congress would direct at least $55.5 million toward military and transportation projects in Anne Arundel County.

The lion's share would come from a military construction bill that the House of Representatives approved last week: $24.9 million toward building a field house at the Naval Academy and $29.6 million for a mail facility, generator plant and other secure facilities at the headquarters of the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.

The bill is awaiting U.S. Senate action.

A separate spending bill for community development and transportation projects passed Congress last week and includes $875,000 for airfield improvements at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Wednesday's Anne Arundel County section incorrectly reported the status of a military spending bill that would fund several county projects. The legislation has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Sun regrets the error.

"All of them are much-needed," Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens said of the spending items for NSA and BWI.

Both bills are expected to reach President Bush this year.

Owens, a Democrat, said the money for NSA will help with its expansion efforts in the next decade. The spy agency is hiring 7,500 workers by 2009, and staff at Fort Meade are working on plans to move a portion of NSA's operations to the center of the 5,400- acre Army post.

"NSA and Fort Meade really need those infrastructure dollars. ... The money for the airport is desperately needed to complete the expansion there," she said. "That's a good thing the money can be found for these projects in these tough times."

The $24.9 million for the Naval Academy field house will complete the first phase of construction. The overall cost is $50 million, and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat, said in a statement that he expected that the rest of the funding will be approved next year.

Naval Academy officials said construction of the 150,000- square-foot building will begin next year and be completed by 2009. It will feature an indoor track and upgraded facilities for women's sports and the school's 47 clubs and intramural teams.

Overall, Maryland would receive about $220 million from these bills. In a news release last week, U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, both Democrats, said they anticipated the legislation would pass.

"This legislation is a culmination of a year's worth of working with Maryland communities to identify places where a federal investment would be best used," Mikulski said in a statement. "These projects represent the best list of local, state and federal priorities."

Officials throughout Maryland say those priorities are being re-evaluated after the national military realignment became law two weeks ago. More than 5,300 jobs will be transferred to Fort Meade within six years, and thousands of other defense workers will be relocated to other Maryland installations during that time.

The influx of jobs will put new strain on local and state budgets to fund billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements, and Anne Arundel and state leaders said they will rely upon the federal government for much of that assistance.

Pleased with the proposed funding support, Owens said she and others must keep up the pressure on Congress.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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