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Policy Forum Points the Way Forward to Expand Community-Military Partnering

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  • May 11, 2011
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Stakeholders representing defense communities, DOD, Congress and the private sector on Monday explored strategies for advancing community-military partnerships at ADC’s Defense Policy Forum, highlighting the obstacles to moving ahead while outlining a broad plan to promote the use of such partnerships.

With garrison commanders facing shrinking budgets for installation support, analysts consider intergovernmental services agreements between installations and local, regional or state entities one way for the military to cut spending. Such agreements allow the community to provide services or facilities that reduce the military’s operating costs and enhance its mission.

“Given economic and budgetary constraints affecting all aspects of government, the forum highlighted the incredible need and opportunity to collaborate across public entities,” said Melissa Glynn, managing director of Alvarez & Marsal, the event’s sponsor.

The partnership between the city of Monterey, Calif., and the Presidio of Monterey is widely cited as a model other defense communities could follow to reduce the military’s spending on base support and, at the same time, help to sustain the installation’s missions. Under the agreement, Monterey employees provide all facility maintenance at the Presidio, including maintaining buildings, roads, the sewer and electrical system, and heating and air conditioning.

The agreement relies on a special authority from Congress, however, and lawmakers would need to provide the authority for other installations to adopt the practice. One of the key stumbling blocks to Congress expanding the authority for installations to contract with local entities is resistance from police and fire unions.

Congress provided a pilot authority in the past for communities to provide municipal services to for each of the military services, but only the Army has taken advantage of it. Partnerships were launched between Fort Gordon and Augusta, Ga., and Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista, Ariz.; the outcomes were limited, however. The nation’s fiscal problems, though, could be the impetus to gaining momentum, according to one forum participant.

The consensus among session participants was to pursue a dual-track strategy. A bottoms-up approach would encourage pilot projects at a handful of defense communities and neighboring installations that could be conducted using existing authorities. At the same time, stakeholders would work with Congress to expand the authority for forming community-military partnerships.

While the potential for budget savings from partnerships can be expected to attract the attention of installation commanders, several speakers emphasized the broader advantages of increasing the ties between a community and its neighboring base.

“It’s not just a business deal … it’s about integrating the base into the fabric of the larger region,” one participant noted.

Recognizing Active-Base Communities

A separate initiative to establish a process for DOD to recognize a single point of contact in each defense community also was discussed. The process would be analogous to how the department recognizes one entity in each base closure community, the local redevelopment authority, to lead the region’s recovery effort.

Recognizing a community-military partnering organization in each defense community could make it easier for installation officials to work together with the community on issues related to land use planning and encroachment, schools, military families, emergency services, roads and environmental infrastructure. As one speaker said, “It will legitimize the relationship between the military and the community.”

On Tuesday, the Defense Communities Caucus hosted a similar briefing for congressional staff to explain the benefits of community-military partnering.

ADC will release a more detailed summary of the event and outcomes in the coming weeks.

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