Leggett Weighs in on Future of BRAC Implementation Committee
County Executive writes he expects committee to continue on "in some form" after September of 2011.
In a recent letter responding to the concerns of a group of National Naval Medical Center neighbors, County Executive Isiah Leggett announced that he expects the BRAC implementation committee to continue on in some form after the naval hospital's merger with Walter Reed Army Medical Center in September of 2011.
The BRAC implementation committee, made up of stakeholders from the community and a variety of state and local agencies as well as the Navy, meets monthly to discuss impacts of the relocation of a portion of Walter Reed in Washington, D.C. to NavyMed.
The move is part of the federal Base Realignment and Closure process, and the combination of the facilities will result in what will be known as the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The new facility will draw up to 2,500 new employees to Bethesda, along with visitors of wounded servicemen and -women being treated at the facility, and the committee is tasked with reviewing transportation improvements in preparation for the increase in traffic the move will bring.
Mandated by an executive order penned by Leggett in 2007, the committee was initially intended to disband in September of 2011, the federally-mandated deadline for the merger.
But with much uncertainty about the availability of federal funds for transportation improvements and some planned projects that almost certainly won't be underway before Sept. 2011, the future of the BIC has been on the mind of many.
Nov. 5, the Coalition of National Military Medical Center Neighbors wrote to Leggett: "With just under a year until the new Walter Reed opens its doors, we are writing to express our ongoing concern that the area surrounding the base is not prepared for this drastic change. There is no doubt about it – we are all going to be impacted by the doubling of the patients and visitors and the increase in the staff. The members of the coalition believe strongly and with unanimity that the BRAC implementation committee you initiated needs to remain intact and operational through the opening of the new Military Medical Center and until BRAC-related infrastructure improvements impacting the immediate are complete or very near so."
The BIC "provides an open forum for insight, coordination and accountability among the various affected entities and needs to be continued," the letter went on, adding that the input of community members provides an "on-the ground" perspective from BRAC-impacted neighborhoods.
There has been some thought given to continuing the committee on after September of 2011 under the auspices of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board, which advises officials on regional issues. But the group wrote, "We are unclear, given the scope and complexity of the BRAC expansion, how the work of the BRAC Implementation Committee could be effectively managed as part of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board which deals with a wide range of issues."
In a letter dated Nov. 10, Leggett responded that he expected the committee to continue on in "some form" after September of 2011. He also wrote that he would look into whether the federal Office of Economic Adjustment would continue to fund the county's BRAC coordinator after September of 2011 or "if the county would need to identify another way to support it."
"I believe the community civic and business leaders and government representatives -needs to stay together and work together to monitor BRAC-related affairs and advise me of concerns that may arise. The last thing I want is for the BIC to disband and I certainly hope that all the community stakeholders and government representatives who have volunteered many hours of their valuable time will continue their high level of involvement and commitment."