Virginia Would Continue Military Support under Reform Initiative, Official Says
The commonwealth of Virginia would continue to reach out to the state’s military facilities under a reorganization plan Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) unveiled this week that calls for eliminating the Virginia National Defense Industrial Authority (VNDIA), according to the state’s secretary of veterans affairs and homeland security.
The office of veterans affairs and homeland security (OVAHS) accomplishes many of the same activities VNDIA is responsible for, including visiting the state’s installations and responding to a pending BRAC round, OVAHS Secretary Terrie Suit told 360.
“It is our intention to continue out of the governor’s office all of those outreach activities so there would not be a gap,” she said.
VNDIA was established in 2005 as an independent authority by the General Assembly to monitor and respond to defense issues affecting Virginia. OVAHS, which was formed in April 2010 as a successor to the office of commonwealth preparedness, reports to the governor.
Suit said the governor recommended VNDIA be eliminated because it was “duplicative” of OVAHS and has a significant fiscal impact. Virginia spends about $400,000 per year to operate VNDIA, she said.
OVAHS and its predecessor historically have been responsible for coordinating defense issues within the state, according to Suit. For instance, the office served as a liaison between the Navy and affected communities when the service began searching a decade ago for a site to build an outlying landing field for Naval Air Station Oceana, located in Virginia Beach.
“The office continues to lead the governor’s initiatives focused on relationship building with the active duty military community, response to Base Realignment and Closure actions, veterans issues and homeland security initiatives,” according to the OVAHS website.
The governor wants Virginia to be the most military-friendly state in the nation, added Suit. McDonnell wants to ensure “we are doing everything we can to make sure the military feels comfortable and excels in Virginia,” she said.
According to the executive director of VNDIA, the authority carries out a range of tasks to keep tabs on the goings-on at the state’s military facilities and the Pentagon. For instance, VNDIA staff conduct an ongoing analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each installation that could make it or the missions there vulnerable to changes in defense spending or military doctrine.
As a result, “we have the institutional knowledge and basic data necessary to hit the ground running if there is another BRAC or programmatic change,” said Executive Director Stan Scott.
Visiting the state’s installations and receiving briefings from their commanding officers is a big part of the authority’s work. VNDIA has conducted 76 installation visits since its inception. “The high-level briefings given to VNDIA’s committee members and staff during these briefings allow VNDIA to maintain the most current and comprehensive catalogue of data on defense assets available to policymakers in the commonwealth,” according to a fact sheet on the authority’s website.
Another mission of VNDIA is connecting the state’s defense contractor community, particularly small businesses, with procurement officials at bases and commands, noted Scott.
McDonnell’s reorganization plan, estimated to save $2 million per year, will be considered by the General Assembly starting in January.