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State prepares for looming defense cuts with report that argues for more Pentagon spending

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Dec. 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
December 18, 2012 1:36 pm

Washington’s congressional delegation today released a report that makes a case for steady or increased military spending in the state even as the Pentagon eyes budget cuts across the services.

The 132-page report created by the Washington Military Alliance outlines more than $13 billion in defense spending at military installations from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Naval Base Kitsap in the Puget Sound to Fairchild Air Force Base in eastern Washington.

It contends those resources should be maintained because they support the Pentagon’s recent emphasis on Pacific threats and defense of cyber networks.

It also calls on civilian governments in the state to take steps that would make them more attractive to the military should the Pentagon undertake an unexpected round of Base Closure and Realignment Commission hearings in 2014 or 2015.

Some of its recommendations include appointing a civilian director of military affairs to improve communication between civilian agencies and defense installations, as well as changing the state’s Public Records Act to protect certain military information.

Gov. Chris Gregoire budgeted $300,000 for the report following an August meeting among lawmakers, her office and representatives from cities near the state’s military bases. The government relations firm Denny Miller Associates out of Washington, D.C. wrote the report.

It recommends:

  • Creating a state director of military affairs to serve as a policy adviser to the governor and become a point of contact for defense issues.
  • Calling on community support groups to apply for grants that would enable them to provide special services near military installations.
  • Paying attention to quality of life issues at the state’s military bases, such as by setting aside money for schools or advancing projects that would improve the installations. For example, an agency could create public-private partnerships that might be able to speed expensive projects, such as wastewater treatment upgrades or transportation improvements.
  • Opening a dialogue between civilian agencies and military installations by encouraging representatives from both sides to meet with each other.
  • Amending the state Public Records Act to exempt sensitive military information if it relates to specific bases.

Other states with a lot to lose in a BRAC round are commissioning similar reports as they foresee decreased defense spending. South Carolina, for example, created a state military task force in April for the same purpose.

Seven Democratic lawmakers announced the Washington report’s completion today and thanked Gregoire for organizing it.

“In light of potential cuts to the defense budget, this report outlines steps that local, state, and federal entities can take to continue working together to support and enhance the vital contributions that Washington State makes to our national security,” the lawmakers said in a written release.

The Pentagon already plans to cut some $487 billion of planned spending over the next 10 years while reducing the size of the Army and Marines.

Military and civilian leaders in Washington state have said they anticipate that Lewis-McChord will remain about the same size in the future because of the Pentagon’s stated goals of focusing on the Pacific as the war in Afghanistan ends.

 

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