Regional Advocacy from Annapolis to Washington, D.C.
The defense community of Aberdeen Proving Ground is large in number and high in impact. More than 120 defense firms are located in the APG region, and they employ more than 6,000 people. These contractors support over 90 federal government organizations and approximately 22,000 government employees at APG, making it our region’s largest employer. Together, the commercial and government organizations of APG provide critical capability to the Army and helped APG grow into one of the most important centers for science, technology and acquisition within the Department of Defense. About $15 billion in contracted activities from its lead tenants are anticipated annually. The mission of the Army Alliance is to ensure the well-being and vitality of this community.
As a non-profit advocacy organization, the Army Alliance’s sole mission is to support the sustainment and growth of APG. In support of this mission, we coordinate across regional interests and organizations to ensure that the needs of APG and the surrounding community are heard with a focus on helping citizens and elected officials and their staff understand the economic opportunities and challenges facing the APG community. By doing so, we help to preserve APG as a cornerstone for national excellence in Army research, development, test & evaluation (RDT&E), as well as national leaders in military C4ISR and CBRNE capabilities.
These efforts are critically important with reductions to the DoD budget and the potential for another Base Realignment and Closure process in the future. We want APG and our communities to continue to grow, both economically and in quality of life, despite these looming issues. As an all-volunteer organization, the Alliance utilizes third-party advocates to help it work proactively in Annapolis and Washington, D.C.
In Annapolis this year we have supported a number of regional initiatives targeting economic development, leveraging existing assets and relationships with APG, while continuing to support higher education STEM efforts. In collaboration with our Annapolis delegation, Harford and Cecil counties, regional companies, local colleges and universities, the public library, and the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, the Army Alliance supported successful legislation to establish the Northeastern Maryland Additive Manufacturing Innovation Authority. This Authority with its focus on additive manufacturing (sometimes called 3-D printing) has the potential to be a catalyst to bring together and leverage numerous other regional initiatives. Planning to stand up the Authority is already underway and will include collaboration with ECBC, who has been a leader in additive manufacturing within the military for over 20 years.
The Army Alliance also supported legislation that will benefit a number of existing STEM initiatives in the region including revisions to the Northeastern Maryland Higher Education Advisory Board, which was established last year due to Alliance advocacy, and task forces focused on assessing vocational and technical education to benefit manufacturers and APG’s technical labs and facilities.
The Army Alliance’s team also is very proactive in Washington, D.C. every year, as we coordinate with the State of Maryland on federal initiatives that benefit APG. We have some ambitious objectives this year. Our initiatives are focused on infrastructure improvements, mass transit tax benefits to APG employees, increased resources for small businesses interested in doing business with or transferring technology from APG tenants, and, most importantly, trying to counter federal legislation negatively impacting DoD program budgets and manpower levels.
The Alliance has sought an increase to the Army’s Facilities Sustainment, Restoration, and Modernization funding, along with changes to how the Army allocates this funding, for several years. Last year our efforts resulted in the U.S. House adding $220 million and the U.S. Senate adding $340 million above the President’s request. Unfortunately, the Budget Agreement from last fall resulted in lower overall funding with the Army FSRM line instead being reduced by $24 million. The Alliance hopes to build from its efforts last year so that APG can decommission and demolish 44 derelict and contaminated buildings, primarily in the Edgewood Area. These efforts could generate significant work for local Maryland construction/demolition companies, as well as address potential environmental hazards and free up land for future facilities investment.
Additional funds for FSRM could also provide for infrastructure improvements to the Army Research Laboratory’s Supercomputing Resource Center to ensure that it can continue to receive the latest computing resources. This facility supports critical Army mission needs including research on armor/anti-armor technologies, in particular, for the mitigation of Improvised Explosive Devices. Upgrading the ARL supercomputing center is critical to the near and far term viability of this facility and helps support 170 associated high-tech jobs.
The Alliance is also asking the Maryland delegation to join other states in support of legislation currently in both houses providing for parity in tax benefits associated with the use of public transportation and/or mass transit. These benefits are being used by those working at APG and will hopefully encourage additional commuters to consider the use of public transportation options to get to work, as well as help address traffic congestion, time spent in traffic, wear and tear on roads, and transportation related pollution.
Another long-term effort of the Alliance is its support of Harford’s Business Edge and its programming to help local entrepreneurs and small businesses, particularly those working with APG and defense companies. By expanding the operations of the existing Technology Development Office located at the Harford Business Innovation Center, development and growth of the small business community around APG can continue supporting DoD small business goals, helping to increase direct contracting to local businesses, and creating new companies through technology transfer from APG, which in combination, would provide increased and accelerated local job creation. The Alliance will be once again requesting assistance from our Federal delegation in identifying additional funding opportunities for the TDO.
The initiative that could have the most positive impact on APG this year would exempt RDT&E efforts from the DoD’s manpower savings plan found in Section 955 of the National Defense Authorization Act, 2013. This plan is currently resulting in hiring freezes across the tenants of APG and other military installations across the country, and could result in future layoffs without changes to how this plan is being implemented. The plan specifically targets DoD civilian and contractor personnel; and therefore, our proposed changes could benefit not just APG’s civilian workforce, but also many of the contractors supporting them. These potential reductions would not just result in lost jobs, but could result in lost capabilities and expertise that would negatively impact APG’s ability to meet its missions and future funding. We would hope that the requested changes would result in more strategic assessments that focus on efficiency improvements and mission prioritization.
Currently all of our federal initiatives have been submitted to our Federal delegation and are being supported in or submitted to the appropriate Congressional committees for consideration. While federal budget activities are underway, it is too soon to assess our success, but we are optimistic due to the strength, commitment and support of our elected officials.
The Army Alliance’s advocacy mission is unique in our region and our efforts matter. Our achievements have significant positive benefit to APG, local employers, our communities and you. If you are interested in learning more about the Alliance or would like to become a sponsor, visit www.armyalliance.org. I95