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Summit highlights goals for downsized military

11/04/2011

 

Summit highlights goals for downsized military

The Sun Journal
New Bern, NC

 

A North Carolina military summit in Fayetteville Thursday appears to have netted commitments from state and military officials for new cooperation to aid both. It will be needed because, “There was real acknowledgement there is going to be a downsizing,” Gov. Bev Perdue said in a telephone interview upon leaving the seven-hour event at Fort Bragg Army Base.

Perdue said retired Gen. Dan McNeill, N.C. Military Foundation chairman, said military leaders are trying to figure out how to cope with their share of the federal budget cuts affecting personnel, supplies and equipment.

“That was important for people to hear,” Perdue said. “But we’ve been through this before. We can still compete. We’ll be fine.”

 Perdue said she charged her administration’s top leaders in transportation, commerce and environment with tangible goals to help insure the state continues as the most military friendly state in the country.

Perdue said the state summit culminating regional events near Eastern North Carolina military bases “was a really good day. People were very glad they had come, felt the investment of their time was well spent.

“I felt a new willingness to cooperate. All bases had leadership there. That was an important sign,” Perdue said of the event that brought out base leaders from Ft. Bragg, Seymour Johnson, Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point as well as key defense industry professionals.

She said military leaders pledged support in “going to Washington to figure out how to get the Defense Department to use North Carolina food, energy and businesses whenever possible.”

John Nicholson, the governor’s military affairs advisor, said Friday some work on the areas she highlighted is already in progress but Perdue’s charges were specific and had deadlines.

She wants Commerce Sec. Keith Crisco to assemble a task force on improving workforce development for military and military families. A report is due by July 2012.

Nicholson said Perdue wants that percentage changed and also charged the state commerce department and the N.C. Small Business and Technology Center to develop a plan by March 30, 2012 to put the state’s small businesses and entrepreneurs in contact with the defense industry clusters.

An N.C. DOT defense logistics initiative study is being done by N.C.’s Eastern Region and the Military Growth Task Force, Nicholson said. But Perdue asked Sec. of Transportation Gene Conti to shepherd it to completion in early January 2012. The report relates to highway, rail, air and general logistics capacity.

Perdue asked N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Dee Freeman to complete work by April 6, 2012, on a state land-use compatibility plan already under way. It should leverage the trust funds for parks, national heritage and clean-water management and agriculture to support land-use planning that protects military bases and training areas in the state.

Perdue said the state will look hard at encroachment into air space.

“There was consensus that we will all be very supporting of FRC East and efforts to get the Joint Strike Fighter,” she said. “There was a lot of talk about that…and lot of talk about the future of unmanned vehicles.

“I heard something I didn’t realize about the tremendous potential around reset” or reworking older equipment that is done at facilities like FRC East, Perdue said. “About 60 percent of defense budget was in reset. I can’t imagine it going away.”

Nicholson said Perdue also “made a charge to internal staff and the N.C. Institute of Medicine to take a look at health care related to the military. That was a big concern expressed. She wants to see that plan by July 1, 2012.” 

Tom Braaten, retired Cherry Point base commander who moderated one of two summit panels Thursday, said: “It was nice to hear that she heard the military’s concerns, reinforced them and assigned deadlines to have some smart people look at them. They know the money isn’t going to appear overnight to solve them but military leaders were reassured.”

He and Jim Davis, Craven County economic development director, both said about 250 people attending the summit represented an impressive and diverse group of state government and education leaders, military leaders and representatives of key defense industries.

Sue Book can be reached at 252-635-5665 or sbook@freedomenc.com.