Anne Arundel County officials said the announcement of 5,300 jobs at Fort Meade fits their belief that the western portion of the county will be a center for population and business growth over the next 20 years.
"It's reassuring to have this confirmation of what I was expecting," said County Executive Janet S. Owens.
The Pentagon announced Friday that Maryland would gain thousands of new jobs while losing just a handful of small installations under a massive proposed restructuring of the country's military bases.
In addition to the new jobs at Fort Meade, Harford County's Aberdeen Proving Ground would gain 2,100 jobs and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda would add nearly 1,900.
In recent speeches, Owens has described Anne Arundel County as a center for the development of military technology. She believes a defense industry corridor is forming between the National Security Agency and Washington, and that the area could one day rival California's Silicon Valley.
Eight of the 10 leading defense contractors in the nation have offices in Anne Arundel. In 2003, the county opened the Chesapeake Innovation Center, a homeland security incubator that has drawn investments from heavyweight defense contractors such as Northrop Grumman Corp., Innovent Nokia and BearingPoint Inc.
In a statement on the base movement, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the military must move from a Cold War mode to a more modern one. That was music to the ears of Owens, who said that with the military's focus shifting from masses of troops to intelligence and technology, the county can only benefit.
"The wars of the future will be in information and cyberspace," Owens said.
In presentations to various groups over the last year, county economic development director William Badger has said Fort Meade could soon resemble a small city, with expanded housing at the base and high-paying technology firms clustered around the perimeter.
He called Fort Meade "a huge driver of our economy."
"Having this much federal land close to Washington clearly benefits us," he said. "We think the momentum is clearly this way."
Badger said the county will have to expand roads and schools to accommodate new workers.
"But I think the county has certainly anticipated this growth," he said. "We'll manage through those issues."
County Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr. said the area around Fort Meade is ready to accommodate more jobs.
"It's right in our planned growth area," he said, noting new housing planned for Odenton and the area around the Arundel Mills Mall.
Rutter said recent improvements to Route 32 have improved access to Fort Meade, and he said planned improvements to Route 175, an important connector road in the western part of the county, will also help.
The director added that he hopes some of the 5,300 new jobs will go to county residents who now commute to Washington but would rather work closer to home.
School planning officials said the effect on schools will be unclear until they learn whether new workers will relocate to the area and if so, when they would arrive.
Chuck Yocum, supervisor of student demographic planning for Anne Arundel public schools, said the school system developed a good working relationship with Fort Meade while planning for the Army's Residential Communities Initiative, which is expected to bring hundreds of military families to the base by 2008.
School officials are on track to redistrict the new Seven Oaks Elementary School and other nearby schools by 2007 to handle the influx.
County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, a Democrat who represents the area around Fort Meade, said she was happy to hear about new jobs but concerned about impact on roads, schools and housing.
"People complain about congestion on the roads and the cost of housing now, and when you think about 5,000 more jobs, it's almost scary," she said.
Sun staff writer Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times