Some Communities Encouraged by New Defense Priorities
Officials in Maryland, Florida and North Carolina are optimistic local installations may be spared the brunt of looming budget cuts, after the Pentagon last week outlined its vision for a smaller force and an increased emphasis on special operations, drone aircraft and cyberwarfare.
“The bottom line is there is nothing in the new strategic look that, at least, as of now, significantly impacts Maryland in a negative way,” Michael Hayes, managing director of the state’s office of military and federal affairs, told the Baltimore Sun.
DOD’s plans to shrink the Army and Marine Corps shouldn’t hurt the state, while a more intense focus on intelligence, R&D and cybersecurity plays to the strengths of Maryland’s installations, particularly Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Hayes explained.
“Like everybody, we will be part of feeling some of the pain, but much less so than others,” he said.
Similarly, Greg Taylor, executive director of the Fort Bragg Regional Alliance, told WRAL-TV that the new strategy’s emphasis on special operations should benefit the Fayetteville, N.C., post which hosts Army Special Operations Command and Army Special Forces Command (Airborne).
Taylor and Hays, however, both expressed concern about the impact of cuts in defense spending on defense contractors.
The rising prominence of special operations also is expected to work to the advantage of MacDill Air Force Base, home to U.S. Special Operations Command, reported the Tampa Tribune. U.S. Central Command, which also is located at the Tampa, Fla., installation, figures to maintain a key role despite the withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan as the military continues to fight terrorism and other threats in the Middle East.
Jon Bayless, who helps lead Hillsborough County’s effort to attract DOD spending, said the new strategic guidance should bolster MacDill, but noted that no installation is completely safe when spending is being slashed.
“There is always a potential for base closings with downward pressure on budgets. MacDill may be in play in the next round,” he told the Tribune.