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Now is the Time to Reach out to Base, Elected Officials, Panelists Urge

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  • December 18, 2011
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Community leaders anxious about the potential for approaching budget cuts to strip missions and personnel from their local installations need to start reaching out to base commanders and their congressional delegations immediately, recommended panelists on the inaugural Defense Communities 360 Live Webcast Thursday.

The most critical task is to learn what is going on at the base so you can form a strategic plan to guide your future efforts. The plan would include the installation’s funding priorities for construction and other projects, and opportunities for growth, said John Simmons, senior advisor at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Alternatively, communities can perform a “SWOT” analysis of their installation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, added Cece Carman Siracuse, senior associate at Hurt, Norton and Associates.

The next step is to work with your congressional delegation to help position the base for the future. At the same time, community officials need to meet with senior civilian and military leaders in the Pentagon to discuss their plans for the installation, while also highlighting community efforts to support the military. Communities need to demonstrate that they are true partners of the base — investing in access roads or working with employers to hire military spouses, for example. Being a cheerleader on the sidelines isn’t enough, Simmons said.

If communities start those efforts now, their chances of influencing high-level deliberations affecting their local installations are vastly improved, he said.

A key benefit of staying connected is being prepared when policy changes come out of the Pentagon, Simmons said. Researching assessments of the base’s assets and military value reached in earlier BRAC rounds also is valuable.

Communities should read major defense legislation, including the fiscal 2012 authorization and military construction appropriations bills released last week, to find out about current and future funding for installations. The strategic review of the military’s roles and missions that DOD plans to release in January and the department’s FY 2013 budget request scheduled to come out by February also are critical, according to the panelists.

It’s not too early for communities to think about the worst-case scenario, a closure or a realignment that significantly shrinks an installation’s mission. Leaders should consider how vital their base is to the community and whether military activities there can be replaced with other economic uses, said Barry Steinberg, partner at Kutak Rock.

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