"What they're doing is in high demand for the military and for the nation," Clinch said.
The official end of BRAC is Sept. 15, the date all moves must be complete. Hayes said Maryland's installations beat that deadline.
The effort involved was massive.
The Defense Information Systems Agency, the largest of the organizations new to Fort Meade, moved 150 to 200 workers — and all the documents, computers and equipment associated with them — each week between January and July. Trucks with classified information were specially sealed and escorted by a "chase car," said David Bullock, DISA's BRAC executive.
The collection of organizations moving from Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen, the largest of which is the Communications-Electronics Command, needed 809 moving trucks to relocate more than 100,000 pieces of equipment. Lab items. Fabrication hardware. Tactical vehicles. Satellite-terminal antennas. Total moving cost: $103 million.
Early on, the military was concerned that most of its civilian employees would quit or retire rather than move with their jobs to Maryland. Then the Great Recession hit. Workers re-evaluated their plans. About 70 percent of the Fort Monmouth employees ended up accepting the transfer, and the Defense Information Systems Agency says a similar proportion of its workers came along to Fort Meade.
But that still meant thousands of vacant jobs. The Defense Information Systems Agency said it recruited aggressively in Maryland in the last few years. The new Aberdeen commands have openings yet to fill.
"There is still hiring ongoing," said Kent Woods, the Communications-Electronics Command's operations officer.
Some employees awaited the relocation eagerly. Vanessa Lopez of Baltimore, who interned at the Defense Information Systems Agency during college and accepted a job after she graduated in 2007, says her commute to Northern Virginia usually took about two hours — by train, Metro and bus. She figures she would have had to move or quit if the job wasn't slated to move to Fort Meade.
"Now I just drive 30 minutes," said Lopez, 26, a financial analyst. "A big improvement."
Many others, though, were very unhappy — at least initially.
"We came down here kicking and screaming," said Mitch Mayer, an electronics engineer with the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center. He and his wife, who also worked at Fort Monmouth, transferred to Aberdeen two years ago.
They took a financial hit selling their home during the housing bust, Mayer said, even with military programs intended to soften the blow. And he's upset about the closure of Fort Monmouth, grim news for the surrounding area.
But life in Maryland has been better than he expected. He and his wife, Liz, enjoy their brand-new house in Northwest Baltimore, the vibrant Jewish community in Pikesville and the variety of restaurants downtown.
"New York has spread out so much, if you wanted to go to the city to an event, you had to drive for an hour or so," said Mayer, 61. "In Baltimore, we hop on the I-83, and we're in town, 10, 15 minutes."
Mayer is one of about 80 BRAC workers who moved to the city and make the 45-minute commute to Aberdeen. Most of the former Fort Monmouth workers have settled in Harford County and points north, according to surveys analyzed by the Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor. But Live Baltimore, a nonprofit that spent the last few years wooing the Fort Monmouth crowd, is hopeful that more newcomers will follow the pioneers.
"They've become our biggest cheerleaders," said Anna Custer-Singh, Live Baltimore's executive director.
But just as the recession persuaded more workers to make the move, it also threw a wrench into the state's plans to widen roads and improve intersections near the affected bases. Revenues fell. Projects were delayed.
"We now see a lot more traffic congestion," said Richardson, the Harford County economic development director. "We identified eight intersections that were critical to traffic movement throughout the corridor. At this point, only one of those intersections has been funded and is under construction."
The Maryland Department of Transportation said work on another intersection into Aberdeen Proving Ground should begin early next year. A real estate developer, meanwhile, is widening part of Route 175 outside Fort Meade.