PALLONE & HOLT VOICE CONCERN OVER PENTAGON'S TRANSITION AT FORT MONMOUTH
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Reps. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today urged the U.S. Department of Defense to prioritize local job creation and economic development when it is making a final decision on the sale of Fort Monmouth. The two New Jersey lawmakers made their request in a letter to Joseph W. Whitaker, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations and Housing.
In past Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) rounds the Pentagon has turned over the land to the surrounding community at a price lower than market value, but that is not the case during this BRAC round because the current BRAC statute requires the Pentagon to seek fair market value. What constitutes fair market value depends upon the use of the land.
"It is our view that the federal government, and in this instance, the Department of Defense, has an obligation to work with the local community to determine how best the land can be revitalized. If the Pentagon takes only market value into consideration, and neglects to plan for replacing the jobs that this land currently employs and creates, then it fails to meet its obligation to help facilitate the economic prosperity of the affected community."
Since August of last year, Pallone and Holt have stressed the importance of making job creation the top priority of Fort Monmouth's redevelopment. Specifically, they have argued that planning should focus on building upon the skills of the people who currently work at the Fort and at the related companies surrounding the Fort. If this is done, the final plan for Fort Monmouth would likely include a high-tech campus that will create jobs, attract private sector ventures, and retain skilled employees now in the area who do not want to leave. By contrast, a planning process focused on fair market value will lead only to high density residential complexes where substantial job creation would be difficult.
"We firmly believe that any revitalization of Fort Monmouth must include a comprehensive plan to create high-paying, high-tech jobs to replace those lost due to the closure of the Fort," Holt and Pallone continued in their letter. "We are concerned that the Pentagon's sole focus on fair market value will hinder our community's ability to plan for the area's economic prosperity."
The two New Jersey lawmakers also urged the Pentagon to regularly consult with the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority, which was created earlier this year by the state of New Jersey to oversee redevelopment. Fort Monmouth was one of 33 major military installations approved for eventual closure last year. When the Fort closes in 2011, nearly 1,100 acres of land will be sold off by the Defense Department for redevelopment.