WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted yesterday to approve $963 million for construction at the state's military facilities, including $698.6 million for the base realignment and closure work that is expected to bring tens of thousands of jobs to Maryland.
The funds, included in the Senate's $109.3 billion spending bill for military construction and veterans affairs, mark the largest expenditure for Maryland during the current round of BRAC. Officials say the expansion of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Meade, the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and other military facilities in Maryland will pump billions of dollars into the state's economy.
The Senate bill, which passed 92-1, must be reconciled with a similar measure approved by the House in June. President Bush, who requested most of the funding, is expected to sign the final package.
"Today's vote brings us one step closer to helping Maryland's military bases implement the 2005 BRAC recommendations," Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said. "We fought to win BRAC as Team Maryland, and I will continue to fight to make sure Maryland has what it needs in the federal checkbook to strengthen and upgrade military facilities."
The bill appears to derail efforts by lawmakers from New Jersey to impede the transfer of jobs from Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen Proving Ground. It contains $274.9 million in BRAC funding for APG, including $141 million for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) facilities and $104 million to support the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate.
Aberdeen also stands to gain a $12.2 million automotive technology evolution facility, a 4.5-mile test track with paved and gravel surfaces to allow high-speed trials of wheeled and tracked vehicles of the sort that are coming under fire from rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs in Iraq.
Fort Meade would get $152 million for a Defense Information Services Building. The National Naval Medical Center would get $214.8 million for the Joint Medical Command headquarters. Fort Detrick would get $150 million for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
"This funding will help provide the nation's military organizations with the facilities they require to meet their mission in defense of our nation," Mikulski said.
The bill also contains $87.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs. That money includes $300,000 for an advanced low-vision clinic at the Baltimore Veterans Affair Medical Center to rehabilitate wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and older veterans with deteriorating eyesight.
Maryland's two senators, Democrats Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, voted for the package. Cardin called it "critical to our current and future military mission."
"This bill contains the resources necessary to provide Maryland's installations and communities with the resources needed to implement the BRAC recommendations, care for our veterans, and improve the quality of life for military families," he said.