Bethesda Leaders Push for Federal BRAC Funds
Leaders urge residents to contact U.S. Senators as deadline to pass Congressional spending bill nears.
In the final hours as Congressional leaders work to hammer out a spending bill that would fund the government into next year, Bethesda community leaders are pushing for money to be allocated in the measure for transportation improvements near the National Naval Medical Center.
The funds would help ease the merger of Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the National Naval Medical Center, which will happen in September 2011 as part of the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The move would bump up the number of yearly visits to the facility to 1 million -- nearly double the amount of current visitors – and bring with it a host of traffic concerns in an already congested area.
Transportation improvements around NavyMed are in the works, including intersection improvements and upgrades to the Medical Center Metro station, but much of the improvements hinge on the amount of federal funding that will be made available for the projects. $300 million was appropriated and passed into law in a fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill for transportation improvements around BRAC-impacted military hospitals, but since the funds were marked to come from a Department of Defense healthcare operations account, the Defense Department couldn't shell out the cash.
Now, Maryland legislators are working to keep language in whatever spending bill is approved to allocate that money. The government is currently funded through a short-term continuing resolution that expires midnight Saturday. A Senate spending bill that included the language failed late Thursday, and it's unclear whether the language will make it into the version of the spending bill that's being hashed out now by Congressional leaders in the final hours before the continuing resolution expires.
In a push for the funds, Bethesda community leaders sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland) and U.S. Rep Christopher Van Hollen (D-Maryland) Friday.
"We need you to make the $300 million for military medical facilities your top priority in the appropriations process," the letter read. "We look to you to protect our mutual successes in the midst of the funding chaos that is currently taking place on Capitol Hill. We owe it to our respective constituents, the wounded warriors, and their families to ensure that this last funding piece falls into place to make this major investment work, and ensure that the new Walter Reed is the premier care hospital it is designed to be. Without access to the base for patients, family, visitors and staff, the tremendous investment by the Department of Defense will be lost and our wounded warriors – coming from every state in this country -will be the ones who ultimately pay the price."
The letter was signed by John Carman, chairman of the Bethesda BRAC Implementation Committee; Patrick L. O'Neil, chairman of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce; Ginanne Italiano, president of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce; Ilaya Hopkins of the East Bethesda Citizens Association and Coalition of Military Medical Center Neighbors; Debbie Michaels, of the Glenbrook Village HOA and Coalition of Military Medical Center Neighbors; Ed Krauze of the Parkview Neighborhood Association; George Milne of the Stone Ridge School; Seth Maiman of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board and County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist.1)
The chamber also sent out a legislative alert urging residents to contact the offices of Mikulski and Cardin Friday to advocate for the funds.