A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:
In early August, I had an opportunity to meet with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. I also met Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Terry Yonkers to discuss Ellsworth Air Force Base and its importance to our nation. Our discussion took place at a meeting of the Association of Defense Communities, where I accepted an award on behalf of the Ellsworth Development Authority.
Since 2009, when the state Legislature established the Ellsworth Development Authority, it has been working hard to support Ellsworth Air Force Base. In just three years, the Authority has reduced encroachments around the base, used excess Air Force land to develop a commercial retail area, and donated 20 acres to the Douglas School District.
In addition, this fall the Authority will begin construction of a regional wastewater treatment plant to serve both Ellsworth and the city of Box Elder. The combined plant will save the Air Force an estimated $8 million. These joint efforts are crucial to the long-term viability of this important military installation.
As we face the possibility of cuts to the Department of Defense budget and the potential for another round of Base Realignment And Closure, the Ellsworth Development Authority will continue to invest in and around Ellsworth. South Dakota has been a strong partner with the U.S. Air Force for 70 years, and we are working hard to ensure that we maintain that partnership for years to come.
The Association of Defense Communities (ADC) awarded Ellsworth "Defense Community of the Year" at its recent annual meeting.
The ADC consists of 200 communities, states, and organizations with a significant military presence. For the Ellsworth Development Authority to receive the ADC's top honor is a strong endorsement of South Dakota's efforts to make Ellsworth the best possible home for the Air Force and the brave men and women who defend our nation.