More states supporting military base infrastructure as cuts loom
More states are supporting the military installations within their borders as the Pentagon targets reducing excess capacity as a way to free up funds that could better be used on readiness and weapons modernization, a recent report by the Association of Defense Communities found.
The report highlights several emerging trends involving state support of these installations, including an increase in the number of state military affairs organizations and more states spending taxpayer money on infrastructure projects at their military installations.
Connecticut is a leader in this effort, according to Bob Ross, executive director of the state’s Office of Military Affairs and a member of the association’s board.
"We have taken a holistic, comprehensive approach to this," Ross said, noting the "enduring support" of the governor, state agencies, the legislature, local governments and civic organizations.
“While we continue to lead, other states are following our model and learning from our best practices,” he said.
Ross’ office was created in 2007 to defend the Naval Submarine Base in Groton against future closure or downsizing. Two years earlier, the future of the sub base had been threatened during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process.
While not all efforts are structured or focused the same way, 35 states have military affairs organizations with eight having been created in the past three years.
“These entrepreneurial organizations coordinate state-level policy to support installations and improve the infrastructure, quality of life for service members and economic development,” the report says.
The association sent surveys to all 35 state military affairs organizations and received replies from 27.
An increasing number of states have become interested in finding out about the economic benefit of defense industries within their borders.
According to the report, 67 percent of the states surveyed have analyzed their defense supply chain or conducted an economic impact study of their defense industry. In 2014, just 14 percent of states had sought to define that economic impact.
Military installations are often states’ largest employers. The sub base, with 10,000 civilian and military employees, has an estimated $5 billion annual impact on Connecticut’s economy.
Increasingly, states are putting money back into their bases.
“Almost half of responding organizations have paid for facility upgrades and other projects on base covering a range of mission needs,” the report said.
In 2009, Connecticut approached the Navy and the Department of Defense about negotiating an agreement that allowed state funding for infrastructure projects on a military base, excluding National Guard bases.
Other states have copied Connecticut's program by authorizing state funding for on-base infrastructure improvements.
So far, Connecticut has spent $14 million of the $40 million authorized by the legislature.
Defense department officials have continued to request another BRAC round, and in April released a report showing 22 percent of the military’s capacity is in excess of its needs. States with Army and Air Force bases have more reason to worry as those branches have the largest excess capacity — 33 percent and 32 percent, respectively. And the Army is expected to reach its lowest level of soldiers in decades.