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David R. Craig: Maryland needs to meet its unfulfilled BRAC obligations

As we enter the final year for Maryland’s implementation of its preparations for Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), I applaud the progress made to date by all levels of government and by the private sector to prepare for the influx of thousands of new workers and residents to the state.

I am concerned, however, that much work still needs to be done, and that Maryland has not yet fulfilled the commitments made when promoting our state as a potential beneficiary of BRAC years ago.

By law, the movement of jobs directly associated with BRAC is to be completed by September, and shortly thereafter the Governor’s Subcabinet on BRAC is expected to disband. But this will only be a milestone in the preparation for BRAC — it should not represent the end.

More jobs will continue to come to Maryland for activities ancillary to BRAC over the years that follow, and the state needs to continue to focus on improving infrastructure beyond 2011.

The greatest needs that exist both now and in the future are for transportation infrastructure and higher education opportunities. Additionally, businesses and residents need easier access to the latest communications systems and information technologies — what I like to call the hidden infrastructure of the 21st century. Maryland is at the cusp of becoming the Silicon Valley of the East Coast.

Harford County has largely fulfilled our obligations to improve and expand infrastructure for everything from parks and recreation facilities to public works projects. On the education front, we have built new public schools and improved existing schools, sometimes by forward funding projects without state assistance.

We have worked to improve higher education by investing in Harford Community College and by creating new opportunities through partnerships with Towson University and other institutions. Our outreach efforts to new residents, workers, and employers have been highly successful, and we are pleased that 56 defense contractors have relocated to Harford County to date.

While the added jobs and residents represent a timely boost to Maryland’s economy, it could also lead to a strain on services, infrastructure, and most importantly, our citizens’ quality of life if we do not meet these obligations.

I urge Gov. Martin O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, and the Governor’s BRAC Subcabinet to finish the work that we have all committed to complete, and for the state to address the unmet infrastructure needs relating to transportation, higher education, and technology.

David R. Craig (R) has been the Harford County Executive since 2005, and is the immediate past president of the Maryland Association of Counties.