- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2005

Thomas Hafer is a security consultant who walks 15 minutes each day to his Arlington office near the defense agency clients he serves.

But he already has decided what he will do if the military moves those customers out of the area — as the Pentagon has suggested.

“I won’t go,” he told an audience of about 200 at George Mason University Law School for a town hall meeting about the Northern Virginia base closures. “I’ll flip hamburgers in Arlington before I have to commute or relocate over to Bethesda.”

Mr. Hafer, 56, was one of the dozen or so audience members who vented to a bipartisan panel of Virginia lawmakers about the relocations to beyond-the-Beltway spots such as Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County.

“There’s virtually no support for the move,” Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said after the gathering.

Mr. Moran and the other lawmakers at the meeting acknowledged that they couldn’t directly stop the nearly 23,000 area defense jobs from being slashed or relocated if an independent commission follows the Pentagon’s recommendations.

But they vowed to make sure the commission abides by the criteria it was given, which they said does not include some of the reasons that the Pentagon offered for closures.

The military has suggested moving the bases because of Defense Department directives, such as one calling for military facilities to move out of leased spaces, that might be beyond the commission’s mandate, they said.

“We’re going to work — and work hard — to make certain that the law is complied with by the Department of Defense,” said Sen. John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who heads the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.

The concerns raised by audience members at the forum ranged from lost productivity by workers with long commutes to fears that putting more workers on the road to far-off job sites would make traffic worse in an already congested region.

Another worry was expressed by buttons bearing with the words “Brain Drain!” that were worn by many at the meeting.

“If you leave some of these research areas, most of you won’t be flipping hamburgers,” Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, told audience members who work with the military.

“You’ll be going out to one of these other companies out here and probably making more money than you’re making today.”

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