- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — A subcabinet initiated by Gov. Martin O’Malley to plan for thousands of new military jobs coming to Maryland held its first meeting yesterday, with Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown introducing the executive director of the group.

Asuntha Chiang-Smith, a former administrator of the state’s Office of Federal and Military Affairs and director of policy development at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), will be in charge of working with local officials to identify funding and legislative priorities, Mr. Brown said.

The subcabinet, which includes eight state agencies, is to deliver a comprehensive report to Mr. O’Malley by Dec. 1 to plan for as many as 60,000 jobs the state will gain by 2011 in the military’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan.

Mr. Brown, chairman of the subcabinet, acknowledged that the group’s task will be difficult.

“We have our work cut out for us as we embrace the opportunities” that come with the growth, he said.

Mr. Brown, Mr. O’Malley and Mrs. Chiang-Smith spoke briefly before meeting in private with the subcabinet.

The officials are responsible for drawing up funding priorities for local infrastructure and public services that will be affected by the flood of new workers.

While the state faces a $1.5 billion structural budget deficit, counties are clamoring for cash to improve roads, schools and mass transit to prepare for the influx.

The state has paid for $6 billion in BRAC-related transportation plans, but $16 billion worth of road upgrades remain unfunded. Anne Arundel County, home of Fort George G. Meade, has alone requested $5 billion for BRAC-related road projects.

Differing estimates for the number of jobs that will arrive at military bases around the state have hampered county officials’ planning.

For example, a DBED report placed the number of BRAC jobs coming to Fort Meade near 5,800. Meanwhile, an Army report included other growth at the base and projected 22,000 new jobs by 2011.

Mrs. Chiang-Smith said the group would work early on to identify the estimates it will use to plan, and might focus on the DBED report’s estimate that as many as 60,000 jobs will come to the state.

“We’re going to work with one set of numbers,” she said.

According to the DBED report, Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County will gain nearly 9,500 jobs. The National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda will gain 1,400 positions, while Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County will gain 400 jobs.

Coordinating with county officials to identify primary needs will be a challenge and a priority, said Mrs. Chiang-Smith, who was a certified project manager for CACI International Inc.’s Veterans Health Administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services contracts.

Mrs. Chiang-Smith also served as a special assistant on economic development to then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening and handled military and immigration work for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat.

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