Complete the mission

Our view : BRAC challenges argue for increased support

August 15, 2008

A new congressional study on relocating military jobs and strategic communications and surveillance operations from Fort Monmouth, N.J., to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County identifies a number of challenges the Army faces in completing the move. But the Pentagon should not be deterred. It has accomplished similarly difficult relocations in the past, and Maryland should be prepared to help bring about a smooth transition.

In its report this week, the Government Accountability Office warned that the Army may not be able to fill technical and electronics jobs fast enough to meet the need and may have to hire less-experienced scientists and engineers than those now working in New Jersey. It said the Army may not have enough time to conduct security clearances for new workers and might have to contract out the work. The GAO review also raised concerns that delays could disrupt U.S. efforts to combat global terrorism.

That's all New Jersey lawmakers needed to hear to repeat their demand that Congress overturn its 2005 decision to close Fort Monmouth and transfer thousands of jobs to Maryland. Rep. Rush D. Holt of New Jersey used the GAO findings as proof that the relocation would pose a "grave risk" to American troops because of its impact on intelligence and communications operations.

That sounds like scare tactics. The relocation and transfer of jobs and operations are to take place over the next three years, which supposedly would also coincide with a reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq, the Bush administration's key front in the war on terror. That's plenty of time to work out whatever problems may arise.

The GAO's findings should be taken seriously. But the response shouldn't be to reverse course on base realignment and closure. The report should be used as a checklist to make sure the Pentagon meets its obligations by giving the Army what it needs to carry out the mission.

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