LG Creates Military Assets Task Force
State House News Service
With Gov. Deval Patrick out of state in Washington, D.C., Murray signed an executive order establishing the Commonwealth’s Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force to plan for protecting the state’s six military bases from a fresh round of closures.
Murray said Patrick has been discussing federal budget issues over the past few days with members of the Bay State Congressional delegation, and Murray said he has had conversations with the delegation members over the phone on military and other budget issues. State Transportation Secretary Richard Davey was also in Washington on Monday meeting with federal officials.
Murray began a tour earlier this month of the state’s six active bases to build the case for expansion and to protect against job losses. He has spent the past year assembling the group of stakeholders who will participate in the task force to update data on each base and study their economic impacts on the state and the region.
“Any loss of mission or reduction in spending at these facilities are a concern because it impacts our local businesses, revenues, jobs, families and our national security,” Murray said.
Joined by business, government and military leaders on Monday, Murray said the state’s high tech economy and access to quality academic research institutions puts Massachusetts in a unique position nationally. “We are positioned very well to protect our military assets,” Murray said.
A recent Pentagon budget proposal announcing a plan to reduce federal defense spending by $500 billion requested authorization for a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The last BRAC process transpired in 2005 when Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford and Natick Soldiers System Command were targeted for closure.
Though the state can longer lean on the clout of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, Murray said the experience of the delegation and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s position on the Armed Services Committees keep Massachusetts in a strong position. “Nobody can replace Sen. Kennedy, his passion and his purpose,” Murray said.
Murray was joined by Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan, Secretary of Education Paul Reville, Massachusetts High Technology Council President Chris Anderson, MassDevelopment CEO Marty Jones, 495/Metrowest Partnership Director Paul Matthews, New England Council President James Brett, Brigadier General Gary Keefe and others.
“This is going to be work. It’s not an easy task ahead of us,” Jones said.
Murray said that the state’s defense and aerospace industries support 120,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. He said the combined Barnes Air National Guard base in Westfield and the Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee represent the fifth largest employer in western Massachusetts.
“We certainly understand given the overall economic situation and the budget there may not be significant dollars to add but we don’t want to see dollars cut,” Murray said.
Anderson also warned of the potential impact on the economy should the “sequestration hammer” fall in Massachusetts, referring to the hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts that could be triggered automatically under a deficit reduction deal struck in Congress last year during the fight over raising the debt ceiling.
Murray said he spoke with one member of the Congressional delegation who talked about looking to unnecessary overseas bases established during the Cold War-era as a place for savings that could preserve domestic defense spending.
As the state gears up for a possibly new round of BRAC, Hanscom is bracing for the loss of hundreds of jobs from its Electronic Systems Center that are being relocated to Ohio as part of an Air Force reorganization that could also cost the Bedford base some of its top ranking commanders.
Though Anderson said the cuts will not impact the base’s strategic mission, he said some of the changes could impact the strength of the state’s case to protect Hanscom from future reductions: “It does portend some potential problems down the road that we need to get ahead of,” he said.
State officials also questioned the timing of a new BRAC considering that some of the changes from the 2005 process are still being implemented, and the entire process costs $35 million to operate and implement.