Md. begins BRAC-influx preparations in earnest

May 31, 2007|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,sun reporter

The O'Malley administration's effort to prepare Maryland for the arrival of thousands of defense-related workers and their families began in earnest yesterday, with a tight six-month deadline to come up with a plan for accommodating the looming migration.

Gov. Martin O'Malley opened the first meeting of the state's Base Realignment and Closure Subcabinet with a call to "maximize the opportunities" presented by the expected influx in the next several years of 45,000 to 60,000 defense-related jobs as a result of a nationwide military base reorganization.

Local officials have urged the state to fast-track highway, transit and school funding, among other things, to ease traffic congestion and relieve classroom crowding. The buildup is expected to draw 28,000 households into the state.

O'Malley stressed the economic potential for the state in the base buildup, rather than the likely growing pains, and he pointed out that many other states are losing jobs.

"While there are challenges to this, and problems, it is a much better challenge and problem than shedding thousands of jobs every year," O'Malley said.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who is leading the base-realignment planning, said, "We have our work cut out for us" in preparing for the growth, including building schools, expanding transit and locating water sources to accommodate the new workers and their families.

Brown announced that Asuntha Chiang-Smith, a former head of the state's Office of Military and Federal Affairs, had been hired to coordinate the work of the subcabinet, which includes the heads of eight Cabinet departments and the state superintendent of schools.

Chiang-Smith, who will be paid $109,799, also had worked as an aide to former Gov. Parris N. Glendening and to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

"I think we're going to do what it's going to take to bring these jobs to the state," she told reporters after the meeting, most of which was conducted behind closed doors after opening remarks by the governor and lieutenant governor.

The subcabinet mapped out a schedule of 10 meetings in the next six months, according to Samantha Kappalman, press secretary to Brown.

The lieutenant governor said that several of the meetings would be in communities likely to be affected by the buildup. Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County and Fort Meade in Anne Arundel are expected to draw the bulk of the jobs.

In addition to the lieutenant governor, the subcabinet consists of state secretaries for budget and management; business and economic development; environment; higher education; housing and community development; labor, licensing and regulation; planning and transportation; and the schools superintendent.

Brown pledged that the group would work "in an open and transparent manner," publicly conferring with local officials about their communities' needs. But the group's deliberations as it drafts the plan will be private, officials have noted.

The public will be given a chance to review and comment on the plan, which is to be submitted to the governor by Dec. 1, according to Kappalman.

tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

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