The federal government has dropped its plan to build a State Department security training center on farmland in Queen Anne’s County, after intense local opposition from environmentalists and community activists. The decision was announced Monday in a letter to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD.
The decision removes what could have been a potent election year issue in the 1st Congressional District, where incumbent Democrat Frank Kratovil had lobbied to get the project for his home county as an economic development boost that would have created an estimated 400 permanent jobs. But Kratovil and other elected officials, including Mikulski and the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners, backed away from the project after community opposition surfaced.
The pullback from Queen Anne’s County could create a jobs opportunity for the Harford/Cecil County area, in conjunction with the ongoing BRAC expansion of Aberdeen Proving Ground operations. The federal government already owns the Aberdeen facility, and the nature of the State Department security training would mesh closely with the weapons testing already conducted at Aberdeen.
Much of the local opposition in Queen Anne’s County centered on environmental concerns, including noise from weapons training that would impact neighboring farms in the Ruthsburg area. Southern Cecil County residents are already used to the ‘boomers’ and vibrations crossing the airwaves over the Bay from Aberdeen weapons testing.
The State Department is seeking a location within a short driving distance of Washington, D.C. to consolidate security training for staff assigned to protect embassies and U.S. facilities around the world. Aberdeen’s location just off I-95 would fit that requirement.
In a letter to Sen. Mikulski, the General Services Administration said that agency and the State Department would continue to seek another site for the training center. (See letter here: http://mikulski.senate.gov/_pdfs/Press/June2010GSALetterToMikulski.pdf )
Sen. Mikulski said she had already contacted Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to urge the State Department to consider other Maryland locations. (See Mikulski statement here: http://mikulski.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=326010&
Aberdeen Proving Ground would be an obvious choice.