Washington, D.C. — While much of the opening day of the 2018 Defense Communities National Summit focused on recognizing the contributions communities make on behalf of the missions and personnel at neighboring installations, keynote speakers highlighted additional actions local leaders can take to support military readiness. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson urged community officials to take a public stance when a dispute involving an installation and the community arises; for example, if residents were to complain about noise from military aircraft or traffic at a gate backing up onto local roads. When such a conflict surfaces, it’s important for community members to explain why “the sound of freedom” is important, Wilson said. Rather than base officials calling in to radio shows to explain the requirements of a military mission, listeners need to hear community representatives make the case for a particular sacrifice on the part of residents. “You need to make the call,” she said. “These things matter.”
Meanwhile, Lucian Niemeyer, assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, urged community leaders to consider projects outside the gates that support installation readiness, including efforts to enhance energy and water resilience or resolve environmental concerns. Local commanders already have a lot on their plate, Niemeyer said.
Phyllis Bayer, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment, advised community leaders to come forward with prospective ideas for partnering or for introducing smart cities technologies that could benefit a local base.
Wilson also cited two specific issues communities can address to support military families. The first is focusing on the quality of public schools, an overriding concern as military families move frequently. The other issue is easing the way for military spouses to continue their careers by ensuring their states offer reciprocity for spouses’ professional licenses. “[It’s] a very big deal,” she said. In February, all three service secretaries wrote the National Governors Association to underscore the importance of the two issues.
Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quay Drawdy