Don’t shortchange Arizona’s defense industry

Don’t shortchange Arizona’s defense industry

Photo: People watch a MV-22 Osprey aircraft come in for a landing during “Luke Days 2014, Lightning in the Desert!”, an open house and air show at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on Saturday, March 15, 2014.(Photo: David Wallace/The Republic)

by Clint Hickman, AZ I See It  – March 20, 2014

County supervisor: Military Installation Fund
deserves full $5 million

The recently announced plans for troop reductions, a reduced Defense Department budget and a new round of base closings in the not-too-distant future should serve as a blunt warning to Arizona policymakers:

We need to defend our nation’s military installations and test and training ranges in Arizona.

Specifically, during their negotiations on a proposed $9.3 billion state budget, lawmakers of both parties must preserve a small, $5 million request to replenish the Military Installation Fund. The money is designed to protect private property rights while addressing encroachment near bases and training ranges in Glendale, Gila Bend, Tucson, Yuma and Sierra Vista.

That might be one of the best $5 million investments in the entire state budget.

Gov. Jan Brewer called for the funding in her State of the State message: “Few things have a greater positive impact in Arizona communities than our military bases. Together, they contribute more than $9 billion to our economy annually, while safeguarding our great country.”

The military’s installations and missions in Arizona are not routinely mentioned among Arizona’s Five Cs, but it surely is their equal. In two landmark studies, economists Alan Maguire and Judie Scalise documented how the state’s combined military industry accounts for 96,000 jobs and $9.1 billion in annual economic output and $401 million in state and local taxes.

And that doesn’t count the impact of large defense contractors like Boeing and Raytheon or their Arizona-based suppliers.

What’s more, defense spending is not so tied to the national economic cycle. Historically, military spending hasn’t risen and fallen with the stock market, consumer confidence, home prices or the highs and lows of the business cycle. We have come to expect that it will just be there: Steady, consistent, counted on.

But new challenges loom. The current economic realities dictate that Arizona must remain nimble and fully support any new missions the Defense Department selects for our state.

Any plan for Arizona’s long-term economic future has to include a stout defense of our military bases. The Arizona Republic’s own New Arizona project advises us all to “remain vigilant about nearby development,” including residential development around military bases like Luke Air Force Base here and Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson.

The $5 million figure is not arbitrary. I serve on the Arizona Military Affairs Commission, which meets regularly to consider projects that will safeguard the bases, test ranges and flight training routes.

In January, the governor directed the commission to develop strategies and to make recommendations to best position Arizona to adapt to new mission requirements. We are embarking on that path.

New projects call for our attention. The Military Installation Fund was authorized by the Legislature almost 10 years ago and has a solid track record of balancing private property rights and military operations.

Replenishing the Military Installation Fund enables Arizona to ensure compatible development around the bases and show continued community support for the military, a key consideration in the base closure decisions. It will enable further research into the military presence and future here.

There doesn’t seem to be much public opposition to Governor Brewer’s proposal. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t slip off the table during the last weeks of relentless spending pressure and frantic budget negotiations. In fact, the funding was sliced to $2 million in the Senate’s spending plan.

That’s not enough.

Lawmakers should not let this $5 million line item fall through the cracks. There’s too much at stake for our state and nation.

Clint Hickman, a Goodyear resident, is a Maricopa County supervisor and a member of the Arizona Military Affairs Commission.


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