Clayton Mitchell: Queen Anne's Co. should support training center

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President Andrew Jackson once said, “Eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.” If today’s date was September 11, 2001, and the federal government asked the citizens of Queen Anne’s County for its assistance in fighting the War on Terror, no one among us would have refused the government’s request. We would have stood in line to volunteer to do anything and everything we could, just as we stood in line to donate blood and enlist in the armed forces in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

Today, the war continues to rage on many fronts. From Iraq and Afghanistan to India and Yemen, as well as a hundred other flashpoints around the globe, our soldiers and intelligence officers are on patrol and ever vigilant. For those Queen Anne’s Countians who may have forgotten the horror we all experienced on that infamous September day, our country was recently sent a grim reminder by a suicidal fanatic (who was hell-bent on giving our nation a death-laden present by airmail over the skies of Detroit on Christmas Day) that terrorists are ever present. The enemy that sought our destruction over eight years ago is focused and determined to kill as many of Americans as it can and to disrupt our liberties and way of life.

The United States State Department recently announced its plans to place a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center on the Hunt-Ray Farm in Queen Anne’s County. The State Department’s existing security training infrastructure is not sufficient to meet its current and projected training needs. The training is currently conducted at 15 locations throughout the United States. Consolidating security training operations in Queen Anne’s County (and in close proximity to Washington, D.C.) will make training more efficient, save taxpayers’ dollars, and create much-needed jobs for our deteriorating local economy.

At the recent public informational meetings in Centreville, it was disheartening to hear friends and neighbors criticize the State Department officials. Many acted as if the proposed project was for a Wal-Mart or another 1000 home cookie-cutter development. However, this proposed federal training center has a higher purpose and a noble mission. In these times of war (and we are at war), Queen Anne’s County must “step up to the plate” and support the training facility with overwhelming support – the same way we would have on September 11, 2001. If communities across the nation had the same mind-set the opponents of this project have, our nations defenders would be deprived of the finest and most efficient locations at which to train for their missions.

I do not suggest that the neighboring property owners do not have legitimate concerns. These citizens’ concerns have been artfully expressed in articulate statements and emotional pleas to various public officials. The federal government, however, appears ready, willing and able to fully address the concerns of those most affected, work with the neighbors and make them as comfortable as possible with the design, mission and activities of the proposed facility. The well-founded and heartfelt concerns of a few, however, must not operate to dissolve this opportunity for our county as a whole.

In addition to promoting and advancing our country’s security needs, the training facility will give a much needed boost to our local economy. Many temporary and permanent jobs will be created. An ensuing “ripple effect” of economic activity would stimulate local businesses, accelerate job opportunities for our friends without work, and promote and preserve the prosperous way of life we have come to enjoy on the Eastern Shore. The newly-created jobs and the economic activity spurred by new employment would go elsewhere if the facility was not built in Queen Anne’s County.

Citizens of Queen Anne’s County – the County Commissioners have no “Plan B” for meaningful economic development for our local economy. Without these new jobs, the local economy will continue to slowly “circle the drain”; local businesses will have fewer customers with fewer dollars to purchase goods and services; the local housing market will continue its decline; more small locally-owned businesses will close their doors; property assessments will continue to fall with resulting tax revenues declining. This will lead to certain higher unemployment, deflated housing values, and higher property tax rates. We will have to sponsor a lot of chicken dinners and bake sales to raise money for our emergency response services when budget cuts become necessarily routine.

I thank Congressman Kratovil for procuring this unique opportunity for Queen Anne’s County and the Eastern Shore. His visionary actions demonstrate how a fiscally responsible consolidation of federal facilities can benefit both our local economy and the nation’s wartime campaign against terrorism. Let’s help each other prosper during this tough economic time while doing something in furtherance of our national security. Join me in supporting the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center on the Hunt-Ray Farm.

Clayton A. Mitchell, Esquire

For more information, read the Baltimore Sun's January 17th article on the training center here.
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