BRAC Funds For Md. Face Senate Vote in Coming Week - Southern Maryland Headline News

BRAC Funds For Md. Face Senate Vote in Coming Week

If The Funds Aren't Restored, Brac-Related Projects Expected To Bring 45,000 Jobs To Maryland by 2011, Won't Proceed or Finish on Time

By PATRICIA M.MURRET, Capital News Service

WASHINGTON - Close to $450 million in military construction funds needed by Maryland this year for 2005 Base Realignment and Closure changes are on the line in a Senate vote expected early next week.

If the funds, slashed last month, are not restored, BRAC-related projects expected to bring 45,000 jobs to Maryland by 2011, won't proceed or finish on time.

Funds for the design and planning of a new and modernized joint-forces central medical facility in Bethesda are in danger. The facility has long been scheduled to replace the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, recently criticized for housing critically wounded soldiers in dilapidated and unsafe buildings.

Also in jeopardy are dollars allocated for renovation, construction and personnel projects at Frederick County's Fort Detrick, Anne Arundel County's Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.

"We received our marching orders on BRAC in May 2005. And we've received subsequent direction as time has gone on," said Aberdeen Proving Ground spokesman George Mercer Friday. "And we really want to make this work."

Many BRAC changes are reliant on other BRAC changes, so timing of funding and construction is key to success, Mercer said.

The BRAC process is "a really long drawn-out process that means a lot of planning and coordination, and a lot of funding," he said. "We really want to make it right, and getting funded helps."

Nationwide, 178 BRAC-related projects landed in limbo last month, when the Senate passed a temporary spending measure to keep the government operating, after Congress failed in 2006 to pass all but two government spending bills—a Defense bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a Homeland Security Bill.

The continuing resolution cut $3.1 billion, or 55 percent, from $5.8 billion requested by the president to support military construction and implementation of 2005 BRAC decisions.

Restoration of the funds has been under debate on Capitol Hill for more than a month as those with an agenda on the war have tried to influence the decision.

Last week, the House passed its own emergency supplemental bill that fully restored the missing military construction funds, while providing more funds for the war in Iraq and other national interests.

Now everyone is looking to the Senate to see what happens.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, announced Thursday that the Senate version of the emergency supplemental spending bill also restores the $3.1 billion in military construction funds slashed in February.

The bill is expected to go to the floor early next week.

Mikulski's office had previously said in a written statement that Maryland's portion of the BRAC-related funds excised from the national budget was "over $300 million."

New numbers supplied to Mikulski's office by the Defense Department have shown that Maryland's stake is $448.77 million. That funding includes:

-- $1.37 million for the planning and design of the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. That move means shuttering the existing Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District, and merging its operations with Bethesda's Joint National Naval Medical Center in new, modern buildings.

-- $389 million for Aberdeen Proving Ground to move mechanic and maintenance personnel from the Army base's Ordnance School to a new facility at Fort Lee in Virginia; to renovate the school's existing buildings, for a new training facility for other combination support soldiers; and, to improve facilities and move personnel from Fort Monmouth, N.J., for the Command Control Communication Center for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, including a new research and development facility. In addition, the funds would help shift Aberdeen's Army Test and Environmental Command personnel, who oversee development of testing of weapons and equipment, to their new station in Texas.

-- $42.8 million for Fort Detrick, including $13.8 million to design and build a new Armed Forces Reserve Center, and $29 million for design and preliminary planning of a new lab for the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.

-- $15.6 million for Fort Meade to upgrade utilities and for a classified materials conversion facility.

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