BRAC – Many D.C. Area Workers Won’t Move

Defense Workers Tell Legislators They Won’t Move (WaPo, B3)

Defense workers and contractors said yesterday that a Pentagon plan to shift 23,000 military jobs from inside the Capital Beltway would prompt skilled workers to abandon government employment before disrupting their families’ lives.

At a town meeting attended by about 300 people at George Mason University’s law school in Arlington, every person who queued up to speak opposed the provision within the Defense Department’s national streamlining plan, with several saying it would hamper the military’s mission and raise costs by triggering a “brain drain” of employees now working in leased office space in Arlington County and Alexandria near the department’s Pentagon headquarters.


The Pentagon says its plan will save $49 billion nationwide over 20 years. The District, Arlington and Alexandria are set to lose about 30,000 jobs, one of the biggest cuts in the country. However, secure, suburban military bases such as Fort Belvoir in southeast Fairfax County and Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County would gain more than 20,000 workers. Most area jobs appear to be set to move nearby, but some would be relocated as far away as Texas, Alabama and Kentucky.

According to [Rep. Jim] Moran’s office, 32 of 36 military workers who responded to yesterday’s survey, or 89 percent, said they would not move with their agencies.

“My point of view is, hell no, I won’t go,” said Thomas F. Hafer, senior program manager of Science and Technology Associates Inc., whose work defending troops from rocket-propelled grenades is in use in Iraq. “I’ll flip hamburgers in Arlington before I have to commute or relocate over to Bethesda.”

Hillary Morgan, who works for the Defense Information Systems Agency, said the ability of staff members to work with defense and civilian agencies in Washington from a proposed new home at Fort Meade “will decline, because they are going to be out of the office for hours commuting back and forth. The loss of productivity will be tremendous.”

Before moving to the area, I would have gotten a chuckle out of people whining that their job had moved 15-25 miles. In reality, though, that may mean an additional hour or more each way being added to an already long commute. In the old days, that would have simply meant moving to Maryland. But with two career couples being the norm, that simply isn’t a realistic option anymore. I’m currently on contract with DISA, which is slated to move to Fort Meade sometime in the 2009-2010 time frame. With The Fiancé working in Alexandria and us both living here, that’s literally a bridge too far.

The upside of the D.C. area, though, is that while traffic is horrible the job market is quite robust, especially in the defense and high technology sectors. The likes of Hafer and Morgan have the luxury of being able to find a comparable or even better position at another agency or in the private sector within their comfortable commuting zones.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    I wouldn’t put too much stock in that little stunt pull by Moran and Davis yesterday. Sure these people are now saying they won’t move, but when push comes to shove I dare say a significant percentage of them will follow their agencies. It’s one thing to talk about quitting, but it’s pretty hard to pull the trigger and start over again at another place doing something completely different. I think the people whose jobs are being moved to another state a thousand miles away will have less qualms about quitting, but if it’ll be a tougher call if it’s still in DC.

  2. bryan says:

    I agree with the DC Loser. Put up or shut up, folks. If these people leave, I’m pretty sure they can find others who will gladly take their cushy federal employee benefits jobs from them.

    “I’ll flip burgers in Arlington …” Yeah. Right.

  3. charlie32 says:

    While I personally would never willingly move back to the People’s Republic of Maryland or that quaint banana republic called DC, a lot of the jobs in question will be moving south to locations like Quantico. Relocating one’s home further south would bring an easier commute and better property values in a less congested setting would it not?
    Moran should be happy he’ll be losing defense workers from his district, most of them despise his unpatriotic, anti-semitic a##.
    The commute question is a tough one. That’s why they should be happy they have 5 years to work on it.

  4. Eric J says:

    I think we’ll also see a lot more contractors working off-site. Maybe this would also be an opportunity to promote teleworking.

  5. dave s says:

    Hafer’s threat is wonderful news for MacDonald’s in Arlington, where they are having a terrible time getting help.

    Some folks will sell their Arlington houses for hundreds of thousands more than they paid for them and buy in Woodbridge, some will quit, some already live in the outer Virginia ‘burbs because they couldn’t afford close in – their lives will be better. I’m not taking this very seriously.

  6. Fersboo says:

    Whatever price you were willing to spend for a home or paid for your home in Arlington (or vicinity), would probably get you a McMansion up here in my neck of the woods about 8 miles out of Fort Meade. Now that they have finished improving Rte 32, the entrance to the NSA, DISA & other intelligence agencies is easier to access.

    With regards to the People’s Republic of Maryland, if you stay out of Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard & Baltimore counties, you may be surprised as to just how red Maryland is.

  7. Chris says:

    Amen to Fersbo,
    Really, the commute up to Meade ain’t that bad. For God’s sake, you can even take the train up to Odenton and shuttle over to Meade. And it’s true, housing is much more reasonable. My ‘hood in Baltimore is safe and sound, looks as nice as Georgetown, and costs many thousands less than anything in DC or NOVA.

  8. Just Me says:

    I am sure they will find willing employees where they are moving to, and good luck to the fine folks who don’t want to move in finding their new employment.

    BRAC hurts, but it is a neccessary hurt, just like having a root canal hurts, but in the end it was a neccessary procedure.

  9. wade says:

    BRAC is difficult but necessary. I think the safety of our military industry is paramount. In the even of a catastrophic event, the time and money to reconstitute would be immeasurable. By being away from the immediate area, we can continue to support the men and women on the front lines. With BRAC will come advances in work process to include telecommuting, compressed work schedules, use of technology such as teleconferencing and collaboration tools. Some say they won’t move. There are simply not that many civilians, federal, or state jobs to go around … they will move. Flip Hamburgers? I doubt it but it may improve the service received as some restaurants.

    BRAC is long over do and anyone truly concerned with improving the military and the safety of Federal DOD workers will agree… those with the “me” attitude… will enjoy the time off.

  10. Strebeck, Guenter W. says:

    Wonder how much the reorganization will cost?? Will it outweight the cost to make it happen?? In many cases the new location will have to construct buildings, parking lots and enlarge the infra-structure to accomodate the newcomers. Plus, how much will it cost in transportation of equipment and and travel pay for those employees who are willing to move?? Considering that this is a nation-wide effort we will probably spend 48.5 billion for the next 5 or 6 years to make it happen.
    Is it a good idea to consolidate our installations?? Seems to me one attack could wipe out a good portion of our defense system. History has shown, England, Japan, Germany, during WW2, that dispersement was the the solution to safeguard the defense network. Have we found a new way of protecting our efforts??

  11. James Joyner says:


    Certainly, it’s cheaper up there. But the Fiance works in Alexandria. Crossing the Wilson Bridge twice is day is not exactly fun.

  12. Just Me says:

    In many cases the new location will have to construct buildings, parking lots and enlarge the infra-structure to accomodate the newcomers.

    Not neccessarily. Sometimes this is the case, but other times, because of previous BRAC or other realignments, there are empty structures already present that they can move into.

    For instance, back during the 1994ish BRAC (can’t remember now exactly when it went down) the USNavy closed everything in Orlando, closed down the Shipyard and the Navy base in Charleston, but left NPTU (the nuclear power training unit) at Goose Creek, when Orlanda shut down, the moved power school and a few other schools to Charleston (Goose Creek) because they could use existing structures and existing housing. Also, cost of living in the Charleston area was much cheaper than Orlando, so by moving the school to Charleston they save money on the housing allowance (which is adjusted according to local COLA’s), and also, since there are two NPTU boats present to train Nukes on, they didn’t have to transfer the entire power school class to three different locations, but ended up only having to send about 1/2 of the class to other locations (not sure of the exact numbers, but when power school was in Orlando, everyone had to be moved to a new location for NPTU).

    Also, BRAC is mostly about long term savings, not short term savings.

  13. Jim says:

    Remember this was a town-hall style meeting held in the middle of the day. How many people who are happy to move would actually show up and take one or two more hours of leave to do it? Just the ones who aren’t happy.

  14. D. Bazemore says:

    We were all aware of the “give and take” of government service when we signed on. Now that we are asked to give a little, some can’t let go of the “fatted calf”, not to be slaughtered but perhaps lose a little weight, perhaps making for a healthier and more tastey meal that will feed us all.

    Did anyone ask our troops if they like getting paid less, for doing more, and separated from their families for an undetermined amount of time to do a job that most have purposly avoided?