Army leaders met with Sen. Barbara Mikulski April 19 to discuss education and transportation challenges at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Local education and transportation are continuing challenges for the Aberdeen Proving Ground workforce and their families. Military officials met with U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski to discuss these issues during an April 19 meeting.

Mikulski, who represents Maryland in the U.S. Senate and has for 24 years, visited the installation to discuss the effect of base realignment and closure, or BRAC, on the community and workforce.

"I want exuberance in Harford County. What is represented here is stunning," Mikulski said, referencing the science, technology and engineering jobs at APG. "Important work is being done to protect the troops, treasured allies and the homeland."

Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, senior APG commander, said BRAC is adding jobs to the local economy; however, the state of Maryland, Harford County and the installation need a long-term plan to overcome associated obstacles.

"We really are a center for science, technology and engineering. It reaches globally," Justice said, referencing the work of his fellow general officers at the meeting from the Army Test and Evaluation Command, 20th Support Command (CBRNE) and Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense. "[Harford] County is just starting to awaken to the magnitude of this."

Col. Andrew Nelson, APG deputy commander for transformation, said BRAC moves must be complete by Sept. 15. The Army is spending more than $1 billion to add about 3 million square feet of office, laboratory and testing space.

All projects are on schedule for commands to relocate, Nelson said.

However, Nelson said APG has identified seven local intersections that need upgrades, with costs to do so totaling more than $100 million.

Mikulski said competition is fierce for funding from the Defense Access Roads program, which provides infrastructure money for areas around growing military installations. National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., was recently awarded DAR funding, she said.

"We need strategic public investments tied to the state and military. [Road construction near APG] is going to take longer than we thought," Mikulski said.

Mikulski and APG leaders also agreed that Maryland and Harford County need to emphasize a robust local education system.

Deputy APG Garrison Commander Tim McNamara said he has met with Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Tomback to focus on three initiatives: improve curriculum by gearing students toward APG's needs; bringing teachers into APG facilities for professional development; and broadening science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, outreach.

"We see physical infrastructure and human infrastructure, meaning educational opportunities, as our job by working with the state," Mikulski said. "Harness this intellectual superpower [at APG] to the civilian world so we have both a safer country and a stronger economy."

Mikulski encouraged APG to partner with local educators to help develop the future workforce.

"When [teachers] see the magnitude [of APG transformation], they are going to be energized because they have kids too," she said. "Everybody is wondering where their kids are going to work in the 21st century.

"There's going to be a sense of excitement. They are going to be excited to work with you because our entire future will be tied together."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16