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The BRAC Kerfuffle

Upfront let me say that what the Lieutenant Governor is doing with the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) action around Aberdeen Proving Ground is wrong. I think we all know why he’s doing it. There are political allies to be rewarded, cronies to receive payola, and they have to make sure, to quote Howard County Executive Ken Ulman the “less than enlightened” will not benefit. (Naturally, O’Malley Watch has it all tied together)

I think this particular tin can needs to be tied to the governor’s metaphorical tail, along with the Queen Anne land swindle, and the other scandals that are going to erupt from this self-dealing administration.

But, if the history of BRAC is a guide, the people secreting themselves away with the clique making the Aberdeen Proving Grounds decisions are going to be the ones hurt in this and then we’ll have the spectacle watching the Governor push legislation to bail his cronies out.

There is truly more below the fold.

Two things have become really obvious since the first round of BRAC in 1988. The first is that the economic impact on communities losing a military installation is never as severe as predicted. To be sure there are people hurt at the micro level but in the main the civilian use of the closed facility tends to be much more profitable than when it was a Defense installation.

The second axiom is that the economic benefit for the communities around the gaining installation is never as much as projected. Both Aberdeen and Fort Meade will be excellent examples of this as will Fort Belvoir, VA. Aberdeen will primarily profit from the closure of Fort Monmouth, NJ. According to Department of Defense, this results in a loss of 5272 direct and 4465 indirect jobs at that installation.

When the announcement was made, this is what Aberdeen Proving Ground had to say:

The proposed net personnel impacts include the loss of approximately 600 permanent party military, 300 civilian employees, and 2800 military and civilian students, and a gain of more than 5300 civilian employees.

But what is being bandied about now is simply nonsense. From the Washington Business Journal:

Including private contracting positions, an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 jobs will be coming to Maryland. Most will be added at Aberdeen Proving Ground and at Fort George G. Meade in Anne Arundel County. Estimates have varied, but Perez said current figures indicate about 70 percent of those jobs will come without people to fill them.

Aberdeen Proving Ground will lose about 4,000 jobs tied to its Ordnance Center. It will also pick up 8,200 workers, mostly from Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, for a net gain of about 4,200.

All told, the number of base workers will grow from about 12,000 now to around 27,000 by 2015, said Harford County Economic Development Director James Richardson.

No, it will not pick up 8,200 workers from Fort Monmouth. First, a good portion of the 4465 indirect jobs, that is jobs performed by civilian contractors or vendors on Fort Monmouth, will not materialize. Those jobs are already being performed as part of the base operations at APG. The current contractors and vendors may, or may not, hire extra staff to handle the increased workload.

A portion of the 5272 civil service jobs will not materialize. Those persons dedicated to the base operations at Fort Monmouth, such as engineering, administration, etc. will simply have their duties subsumed by the existing infrastructure at APG.

The second bit of reality. The Defense budget is not going to allow for the doubling of the APG workforce, either civil service or contract. The Army and the Marines are going through an expansion at their main troop installations and any extra money is going to be focused on Camp Lejeune, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, etc. APG is at its highwater mark.

Under a best case scenario, and that would be the example of the various Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) aircraft plants in Southern California in the early BRAC iterations, Maryland could expect a five jobs to be created in the civilian economy for every directly provided BRAC job. The organization moving to APG is not that kind of an organization.

In the short term, Harford County is going to be a veritable Blanche DuBois, depending upon the kindness of strangers to fund infrastructure.

There is also the assumption that these workers will live in Maryland, and therefore Maryland will be able to stick its hands deeply into a fresh set of pockets. Don’t believe it. The commute from Aberdeen to either Pennsylvania or Delaware, and lower taxes, is not that far.

In the final analysis, the pigs shouldering their way to the trough today are going to be ones crying loudest for a bail out long before Mr. Perez ever sees 40-60K jobs created by BRAC in Maryland.






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