County talks BRAC ahead with Economic Development Department
Looks at strategies ahead of potential realignment process
For years, many in the county have been concerned about the future of Naval Support Facility Indian Head.
During the Charles County Board of Commissioners’ Tuesday meeting, the commissioners brought in Darrell Brown, head of the county’s economic development department, and other key figures to discuss measures to prevent the town
and county from losing its naval base.
There has been no real indication that through the Department of Defense’s base realignment and closure (BRAC) process the naval base has a chance of being shut- tered, but county and Indian Head officials alike have made it a priority to discuss the revitaliza- tion of Indian Head. The relationship between the town and the base is part of that discussion.
John Bohanan, a consultant from Cor- nerstone Government Affairs, and Jennifer Dionne, a consultant from Atlantic Strategies Group, were both brought in to discuss their experiences with base realignment and what the county could do to prevent the Indian Head base from being impacted.
“There is going to be a serious push [from the Department of Defense] for ‘how do we make some significant reduc- tions that really save us money?’” Bohanan said.
Communities have got- ten “a lot smarter and a lot more sophisticated” about how they position themselves with their bases and how they com- pare to their competition, he said. The county has to “proactively” make sure they are promoting with the base.
“You’ve got to make sure your employment center is a business. You’ve got to get out and tell that story,” Bohanan said. “It does make a difference.”
Dionne said the county, state and other govern-
ment bodies are “critical” in the lobbying process for specific installations because base employees are not allowed to do so.
At this point, Bohanan said, it looks like the next potential realignment process would come in 2019. There are 5,500 total jobs and $400 million in payroll at stake, potentially, for the county, he said.
And though it has not been put in any danger yet, Dionne said there have been costs and missions cut from the Indian Head base to save money for the defense department. Though it is not a direct realignment and does not show signs of realignment one way or another, she said, the removal of missions is not a positive if there is a potential realignment.
Because of the change in presidential administration, Bohanan said, “We should assume that a BRAC is imminent.”
Over the last 18 months, Dionne said, there has been a solid foundation built by stakeholders looking to prevent a realignment of the Indian Head base. But there is more work to do, she said. The next step is to build up a “twoto three-year” strategy to be prepared for a potential realignment process.
Bohanan said, at the end of the day, it all hinges on mobilizing the community for a “sense of urgency.” If there is not any urgency in keeping the base, it becomes vulnerable, he said.
So far, the community in Charles County is “getting good grades” with its promotion of the base and the community’s involvement in the process.
Taylor Yewell, a redevelopment manager in the economic development department, said the Town of Indian Head is doing a number of things to help support the town’s economy along with integrating the base into it.
One of those things, he said, is building up a “velocity center” in a vacant space in the town. The center would have a coffee shop, education center, innovation tenant and an anchor tenant to lease the building.
The plan is to leverage the velocity center as “a catalyst” for mixed-use development. It would have both government and private occupants, he said, and “could occupy existing space, a standalone building or be used as a mixed-use project.”
“The important point is that this facility will use vacant or underutilized space in the Town of Indian Head,” Yewell said.
County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said there has been a sense of urgency during the time he has served as a commissioner “and that’s a good thing.” The process has been “unpredictable,” he said, but the county is prepared nonetheless.
“In terms of unpredictability, I think all of you would agree, in changes of the federal government, everything is unpredictable,” he said.
But things are different now, Dionne said. The country is in a “different place” with the possibility of a BRAC round coming as early as 2019.