Today the Department of the Army and the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) will sign the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that transfers the former-Fort Monmouth property to the local authorities for reuse and economic development. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) --who worked directly with FMERA and intervened with Secretary of the Army John McHugh to help expedite and finalize this critical agreement--issued the following statement:
"For 90 years, Fort Monmouth stood at the forefront of military innovation and provided the warfighter with state-of-the-art communication and intelligence technologies," said Smith. " The Fort served as a source of local employment for a highly skilled workforce and economic activity for our proud, military community.
"The decision to close Fort Monmouth was egregiously flawed and I remain absolutely committed to working nonstop to help bring in quality, high-paying employment opportunities to replace the jobs lost as a result of BRAC 2005.
"In 2008, we knocked on the door of the Department of Veterans Affairs and encouraged them to establish the VA's Technical Acquisition Center in Monmouth County. It has proven to be a win-win as the VA needed to expand its workforce of acquisition specialists and I was looking to bring good paying jobs to a community severely impacted by BRAC recommendations. The TAC will grow even larger in years to come and more local residents--including former Fort employees--will have desirable employment opportunities.
"Today's signing of the MOA marks a significant milestone on the road to economic revitalization of the Fort. Having worked directly with Army Secretary McHugh to expedite this document, I am confident that it will open doors and enable FMERA to recruit and entice job creators in a manner and timeframe that works for private industry.
"Driving my ongoing efforts was the potential for the relocation of the world headquarters of Commvault. The MOA and the following Economic Development Conveyance (EDC) package will pave the way for expedited approval of this large, high-tech company's new facility. I firmly believe that Commvault will act as a magnet to pull in other businesses and provide an attractive market for other properties on the post.
"These efforts, combined with our larger redevelopment plans, are bringing thousands of jobs to Monmouth County and huge opportunities exist for future growth.
"In addition to the economic development opportunities green-lighted by today's signing, other projects are in the works that will provide important services for Monmouth County residents, including facilities that could potentially enhance medical care for the elderly, homeless veterans' assistance, and education.
"While many challenges remain, our local community has shown a determination to come together and revitalize this area. I thank the Army, FMERA and the Monmouth County officials whose vision and focus have contributed to the final product signed today. In particular, Freeholder Lillian Burry, the Mayors of Tinton Falls, Oceanport and Eatontown, State Senator Jennifer Beck and Assembly Members Declan O'Scanlon, Carolyn Casagrande and Mary Pat Angelini have been dedicated public servants who have diligently sought out and facilitated opportunities for redevelopment. Encouraging job creation projects in Monmouth County and enhancing services to residents are goals we all share and I am happy to have such able and committed partners."
In an earlier effort to bring jobs to the area, in the spring of 2008 Smith organized a meeting in his Washington office with officials from the Veterans Administration (VA) to help advance a proposal to open the new VA Technical Acquisition Center near Fort Monmouth. The primary focus of the center is to support acquisition requirements for VA's integrated technology programs.
With over 160 jobs already created to date, the VA's presence is expected to grow to 370 employees. Smith met in Washington in 2010 with Stephen W. Warren, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information & Technology, Jan Frye, the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Acquisition and Logistics and Glenn Haggstrom, the Executive Director of the Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction, to discuss the jobs. During the late 1980s, the VA's annual procurement obligations were below $2 billion. Because of an increase in capabilities that provide services to address the needs of an expanding and changing veterans population, as well as an influx of veterans recently returned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, VA procurement programs had grown to roughly $10 billion by 2009. But the workforce had not increased to keep up, and delivery of services had suffered.
As former chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Smith was aware of the challenges within the VA to utilize new technologies and internet capabilities to modernize its operations and improve the delivery of services -- health care and other benefits -- to the nation's veterans.
The center is under the Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction. The employees are primarily acquisition contracting officers and systems engineers but the center will include others who perform management analysis, program management, legal and administrative functions.