Defense Officials Urge Communities to Plan for Mission Adjustments
Local officials and their congressional representatives should play a large leadership role in helping communities plan for potential defense cuts, Office of Economic Adjustment Director Patrick O’Brien told Capitol Hill staff Tuesday.
“The first step is to organize and speak with one voice, which may involve multiple municipalities,” O’Brien said at a congressional staff briefing hosted by the Defense Communities Caucus. “The second step is planning and discussing how to diversify the local economy.”
Such planning may include retraining workers and engaging other federal agencies such as the Small Business Administration, O’Brien said, adding that implementation of the plan is the third step in “the community-based approach” he recommends.
Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told the roughly 40 attendees that the Department of Defense is not currently working on another round of BRAC.
“We just finished BRAC and are still digesting that,” Robyn said, adding that current challenges present “a tremendous opportunity to grow partnerships” between communities and the military services, in areas such as the development of microgrids and other energy issues.
Defense cuts can greatly impact a community’s service industry, said Gerald Abbott, professor of acquisition and director emeritus of industry studies at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University.
“You need to look not only at the implications of products being bought but also services being bought,” Abbott told congressional staff. “Many of the things affected in your community will be minor things that are hard to see but will have an impact.”
Abbott noted that many military installations use local contractors to fill positions such as guards, lawn care, child care and auto maintenance.
Many communities that are home to defense manufacturers, however, can be encouraged by recent rule changes that make it easier to export military parts made in the United States, Abbott said.
Tuesday’s briefing was moderated by John Armbrust, president of the Association of Defense Communities. It was the final installment in a three-part staff briefing series titled “Preparing Your Community for the Impact of Defense Downsizing.” The series began Oct. 25 with a presentation from Anthony Principi, chairman of the 2005 BRAC Commission and former secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The bipartisan Defense Communities Caucus was formed in the House in April to give defense communities a unified voice on Capitol Hill. It is co-chaired by Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.).
Farr, whose district includes Monterey, Calif., said in opening remarks at the briefing that his community was required to come together when threatened with closures. A purpose of the caucus is to help communities prepare for similar circumstances.
“These are tough issues, and we want our caucus to hear from the people who have the knowledge base on how to address them,” Farr said.