By Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr, USN (ret), Former Commander, U.S Fleet Forces Command
Governor Bob McDonnell issued Executive Order No. 60 today to reconstitute Virginia's Commission on Military Installations and Defense Activities. The Governor issued the order following the implementation of automatic federal sequestration cuts. The purpose of the Commission will be to examine in detail the likely impact on Virginia of the defense cuts contained in the sequester, as well as future BRAC activities, and to make recommendations as to the Commonwealth's best courses of action in light of these developments at the federal level.
Speaking about the sequester the governor remarked, "As a veteran, father of a veteran, governor, Virginian, and, most importantly, as an American, I am greatly disappointed that President Obama and Congress have not taken decisive action to avert the devastating effects that the sequester will have on our national defense capabilities. A projected $600 billion of sequester defense cuts over 10 years, on top of the $487 billion in cuts already in place, is an unsustainable burden on our military in an unstable and volatile world. Virginia will be particularly hard hit because of our proximity to Washington, D.C., and our status as home to more military installations and private-sector military partners than almost any other state. Multiple studies show that approximately 130,000 to over 200,000 Virginia jobs could be lost because of these arbitrary cuts.
While our nation has overspent for years and must dramatically cut spending and entitlements to reduce the embarrassing national debt now approaching $17 trillion, implementing these haphazard sequestration cuts in this manner will result in lost jobs, unprecedented financial uncertainty for business, families, and states, and a devastating weakening of our defense department."
He continued, "As the Governor of a Commonwealth with over 100,000 active duty military and over 800,000 veterans, long known for its important relationship with our nation's military, the unconscionable part of these sequestration cuts is their long-term devastating impact on our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who are bravely engaged around the world for freedom and our national security. To make these arbitrary cuts to defense will leave our military much less prepared to complete our missions abroad and protect our national security here at home. That is reckless and irresponsible policy.
The sequester was never intended as a policy to be implemented - only as a hammer to force the President and Congress to act and put forth responsible spending cuts to solve our fiscal problems. They have failed.
I call on the President to stop the unnecessary press conferences and meet with Congressional leaders and get this fixed. Much more than $1.2 trillion in cuts must be made because the federal government has an enormous spending problem. Under President Obama's leadership, the United States has added a record $6 trillion to the national debt, more than under any President in history. Additional revenues were already provided by Congress in the New Years day vote. Sequestration was always planned to be a policy of spending cuts, not tax increases. The United States House of Representatives has passed 2 bills dating to last May to find alternative ways to cut spending, while the Senate continues to fail to act and has failed to pass a budget for our country in nearly 4 years. I call on the President to immediately submit a plan to reduce these dramatic defense cuts, and propose a plan reflecting the truth that our country's fiscal health can only be repaired with sweeping entitlement reforms and responsible spending cuts. Mr. President, cut spending, don't raise taxes."
The governor continued, remarking about the Commission, "As a result of yet another federal government crisis and failure, I have today signed Executive Order No. 60 to reconstitute the Commission on Military Installations and Defense Activities. Its purpose is to examine in detail the likely impact on Virginia of the planned defense cuts, and future BRAC actions, and to recommend to me the best courses of action to advocate for favorable policies in Washington, and respond to the economic and security impacts here at home. I am delighted that Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr, recently retired Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, has agreed to be the chairman of the Commission.
Over the past 18 months since the sequester was approved by Congress and the President in August 2011, I have taken multiple actions to prepare for the impacts. We have now more than doubled the rainy day fund from $300 million in FY2011 to nearly $800 million by the end of FY2014. We have created the new Federal Action Contingency Trust (FACT) fund to help with specific federal actions. We have targeted $45 million this year to help localities. We have created other Executive Order advisory groups to bring in experts to help plan for the impact of major defense cuts and to diversify our economy. We are doing all we can on the state level to weather this difficult period. Now, we need leadership in Washington so all states and all Americans can have certainty about the years ahead, and to get our nation's fiscal house in order."
Responsibilities of the Commission on Military Installations and Defense Activities
Evaluate data and studies in order to develop recommendations and plans regarding preventing closure or realignment of federal military and national security installations and facilities located in the Commonwealth and to relocate such facilities here;
Develop and recommend strategies to prevent the closure or realignment of federal military installations located in Virginia or the relocation of national security facilities currently located here;
Develop and recommend strategies designed to limit the adverse economic effect of such realignment, closure, or relocation, or to seek additional tenant activity growth from the Department of Defense or federal government;
Recommend, as appropriate, the best business practices for the Commonwealth and localities to retain existing military installations and commands;
Develop and recommend strategies that support and foster collaboration among local and regional entities in identifying appropriate opportunities for protection of existing federal facilities and the placement of additional federal facilities in the Commonwealth;
Determine and recommend the best and most efficient manner to foster and promote business, technology, transportation, education, economic development, and other efforts to support, attract, and retain existing military installations and commands in the Commonwealth;
Identify and track all federal government military and national security facilities located in the Commonwealth and their military construction plans and facilitate ways to assist in those plans;
Make recommendations, as appropriate, to prepare the Commonwealth to effectively compete in federal budget reductions through the sequestration process;
Support the Commonwealth's position in research and development related to or arising out of military missions and contracting;
Improve the Commonwealth's military-friendly environment for service members, military dependents, military retirees, and businesses that bring military and base-related jobs to the Commonwealth;
Supervise and advise contractors, where appropriate, in the development of analytical tools by which to obtain essential, critical information required about each Virginia military installation with input from local installation and community leadership;
Direct and review studies from experts that have utilized past Base Realignment and Closure criteria and scoring, conduct a thorough and detailed analysis of the military value of Virginia's military installations, ranges, and airspace for the purpose of formulating strategies to secure the long-term viability, retention, and growth of military missions and facilities; and
Ensure that a risk assessment is properly conducted of each installation that can inform strategies to prepare for Department of Defense consolidation and realignment actions.