WASHINGTON – The Army reassured Maryland congressional staffers Thursday that Fort Monmouth, N.J., will close and move its operations to Aberdeen Proving Ground, despite protests from New Jersey lawmakers.
The Department of Defense released a report last week outlining the plan and saying there are still hurdles to be cleared before Fort Monmouth can be shut down without disrupting operations. But, the New Jersey congressional delegation contends the report is insufficient and called for an audit by the Government Accountability Office.
New Jersey officials have protested the move since 2005, when military planners said the fort would be closed as part of the Base Realignment and Closure recommendations, taking jobs and tax money with it. Fort Monmouth will shut down by 2011, and its communication and electronic support command along with 5,200 jobs will move to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., called for a briefing Thursday of the Maryland congressional delegation by the Army.
“This report tells us what we already know: the Army and the Department of Defense have a detailed and comprehensive plan to ensure the successful implementation of the BRAC recommendation . . .,” she said in a statement.
The report was prepared by the DoD and sent to the House Armed Services Committee on Dec. 28 to show Fort Monmouth can be replaced while critical operations continue.
Staffing was the main concern in the report. About 2,500 people will need to be hired to begin work at Aberdeen Proving Ground by 2011. Just 30 percent of the Fort Monmouth workers plan to make the move from New Jersey, so the Army will offer retention and relocation incentives to keep experienced staff, who will train replacements. Workers will move to Maryland in phases as construction opens new space in Aberdeen.
The report also summarized the Army’s logistics plans to relocate equipment and secure networks while shifting between the bases.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, a member of Armed Services, said in a statement, that the briefing confirmed the military’s vigorous oversight of the move, ensuring a smooth transition.
Both of New Jersey’s Democratic U.S. senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and four House members (Democrats Frank Pallone Jr. and Rush Holt, and Republicans Chris Smith and Jim Saxton) sent a letter to the GAO last week, saying the report was insufficient and asked that it be reviewed.
“We believe that the DoD did not sufficiently outline how this move would take place without disrupting support to troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the letter said.
The New Jersey delegation said the report shows the military’s plans are incomplete and too expensive.
Every member of Maryland’s congressional delegation signed onto a statement released after the meeting praising the military’s plan and the opportunity BRAC provides to the state. Maryland is set to gain between 45,000 and 60,000 jobs by 2011 as part of the process.
Melissa Schwartz, communications director for Mikulski, said in an e-mail the Maryland delegation would fight just as hard as New Jersey if it was losing one if its valuable bases.