Urges Community to Remain Energized and Involved
SOUTHERN MARYLAND - Congressman Steny Hoyer today met with nearly 200 business and community leaders from throughout Southern Maryland at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum to discuss the upcoming BRAC in 2005 and the success of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and St. Inigoes. Last week, the House of Representatives passed the fiscal year 2005 Defense Appropriations bill which included millions of dollars, secured at the request of Congressman Hoyer, to support the growing number of high priority projects being worked on at Pax River and St. Inigoes. Following are Congressman Hoyer's remarks as prepared for delivery.
"On July 1st, 1993, 11 years ago, the BRAC commission issued its final report to President Bill Clinton. The recommendation to move NAVAIR from Crystal City to Pax River marked the 2nd major consolidation for the Navy that would bring new jobs to Pax River - Warminster was the first.
"All told, over 5,000 additional civil positions would be transferred to Pax and, St. Inigoes would remain with about two-thirds of the activity intact.
"Not everyone in this room was here during that time - some of you were brought here as a result of the 1991 (Warminster) or the 1993 (Crystal City) decisions. While it was an exciting time for this community, it was also challenging. Over the course of the next six years, Southern Maryland would have to work in partnership with the Navy to pull off what arguably may rank as one of the largest wholesale relocation efforts ever undertaken by an organization.
"Most of these jobs were civil servants - not military personnel - which required uprooting many government employees who would follow their jobs. Despite fearing the prospect of the closure of St. Inigoes in both the 1991 & the 1993 BRACs, or possibly losing all or part of Pax, the community now had to get to work - and it did!
"An unprecedented effort was made by this community - elected officials, working with the private sector to make sure we met the Navy's deadlines. The Navy took a gamble that required the full cooperation of the State of Maryland and the three Southern Maryland counties. Through working with J. Frank Raley and the infrastructure advisory committee, all levels of government worked with and were aided by the private sector to enable a relatively smooth transition and the Navy's schedule to be met.
"What results today is - as I have said on many occasions - a community that is the envy of most in America. The unemployment rate in St. Mary's County for May was 2.4%, tied for second in our state. For the tri-county region, the rate was 2.6%. St. Mary's County and Southern Maryland continue to lead our state in economic performance.
"In every measurement of our economy and region, indicators are positive for this community and the Navy is a major part of that. It is now time for each of us to once again pause from the robust pace of our own entities and domains and begin taking a community perspective.
"Like we did during the 1990s, we need to band together to focus on what's good for the whole of our community. We cannot take for granted what we have here today - either at Pax River or St. Inigoes. I believe, that with the major changes that will likely occur as a result of the cross-service consolidations, that Pax River will not remain untouched. We could gain or we could lose, but we will likely not look identical to where we are today, once the BRAC of 2005 is complete.
"Inside the gate, we are well poised to receive additional realignment as a result of what has already been consolidated here. The people and talent, the world class facilities, and the infrastructure all position us well for the BRAC, but we should not take anything for granted. The only given, in my opinion, is that due to the magnitude of the changes the Department of Defense is talking about making, that mistakes will be made in the process and facilities will be closed or realigned that - five years from now - the Department of Defense will realize were not good decisions.
"We have 3 great organizations and good community leaders and we need to organize and be ready. The alliance, the partnership and the chamber will be important to us as we move ahead by providing us with information. The public private partnership that we have here has served us well and we want it to continue. You are all a good source of information and that "network" that feeds a constant stream of updates in critical to our success. Let's make sure we're all involved & participating and not letting other folks do all the work."