Bill would cut funds for military move

February 01, 2007|By Matthew Hay Brown | Matthew Hay Brown,sun reporter

WASHINGTON -- Federal funding for military-related projects in Maryland could be reduced by cuts approved yesterday by the House of Representatives, which approved a measure that trimmed more than $3 billion from President Bush's request for funding associated with the base realignment and closure process.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it may be approved under rules that prohibit changes. But Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, said there would be opportunities this year to obtain more funding.

Expansion at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County and other military bases is expected to bring 40,000 to 60,000 new jobs to Maryland over the next five years.

The House-passed measure, which is designed to fund the federal government until Oct. 1, contains $2.5 billion for realignment nationwide -- up from $1.5 billion the previous year, but down from the $5.6 billion Bush had requested.

It does not identify specific projects to be cut -- that will be up to the military -- but congressional aides said that Maryland, a winner in the current round of realignments, was likely to be affected.

Michael Hayes, director of military and federal affairs for the state's Department of Business and Economic Development, said news of the appropriation cut was "troubling," but declined to comment further until he learned details.

Karen Emery, BRAC manager for the Harford County economic development office, said county officials remained hopeful that Maryland's congressional delegation would ensure adequate funding to bring the jobs scheduled for Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"We're optimistic that BRAC funding will be provided in the relatively near future," Emery said.

While unable to say whether any funds for the Aberdeen positions were cut, she said she did know that the Army retained money for preparing Fort Lee in Virginia to receive the Ordnance School. That unit, now at APG, is to move to make way for an influx of other units and positions from New Jersey and elsewhere. Emery said moving the Ordnance School was a necessary prerequisite to make way for new positions at Aberdeen.

Mikulski, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, expressed frustration at the cuts, the result of a budget process expedited by the new Democratic majority to clean up business left over from the last Congress, when Republicans were in charge.

"We were ready to pass MilCon [military construction], it was ready for a vote," she said through a spokeswoman. "But partisan politics kept us from passing it, and now Maryland faces a deficit. But I am not going to stop fighting."

Mikulski said she would work to restore funding in a supplemental spending bill expected to come up for consideration this month, and again in the 2008 military construction bill later this year.

Sun reporter Timothy Wheeler contributed to this article.

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