- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2005

The drive from Crystal City to Fort Belvoir is less than 10 miles. From Crystal City to Fort Meade in Maryland is less than 30 miles.

But the military’s plan to move more than 20,000 jobs out of leased office space in Northern Virginia to military bases beyond the Capital Beltway will do far worse than aggravate the commutes of some civil servants, Virginia political leaders said yesterday.

The proposed changes will disrupt the confluence of factors that draw so many of the region’s best and brightest into government service and destroy the efficiency that comes from keeping so many defense jobs clustered around the Pentagon, according to Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Arlington County has forged a regional reputation as a haven for smart growth and urban planning that allows people to find good jobs in which they can walk or bike to work and enjoy easy access to public transportation.

Many of those who work in Arlington will balk at a job relocation even a short distance away because the region’s strong economy will give them access to other good jobs and because a move to Belvoir or Meade will dent their quality of life by forcing them to commute on clogged highways, Mr. Warner said.

“In this corridor, you’ve got a place where highly educated young folks like to live, work and play,” Mr. Warner said. “If you break up that cluster of intellectual capital, it will really hurt the military’s effectiveness.”

Mr. Warner, a Democrat, U.S. Sens. George Allen and John W. Warner, both Republicans, and Rep. James P. Moran, a Democrat, spoke to reporters after sitting in on a meeting between local military leaders and the Base Realignment And Closure Commission (BRAC), which is reviewing the military’s recommendations to close dozens of bases and consolidate other operations nationwide.

Northern Virginia, home to many military, civilian defense and contractor jobs, has been slated for some of the most radical changes in the nation.

The Defense Department estimates that its proposals would move 23,000 jobs out of leased office space in Arlington County and Alexandria.

Many of those jobs would be moved to Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County.

Fort Belvoir estimates that the BRAC recommendations will add 18,000 jobs there.

The military has said it wants to get out of the leased office space primarily because of new security requirements.

But Mr. Allen said the discussions yesterday seemed to revolve more around cost-savings and the efficiency of consolidating operations.

“Our view is that it will cost more” to relocate these jobs than to keep them in place, Mr. Allen said.

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