Legislation Incorporates Recommendations from July 2015 Task Force Report
A five-bill legislative package Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo sponsored to fortify New Jersey’s five military installations was advanced by an Assembly committee on Thursday. The bills range from establishing the Military and Defense Economic Ombudsman, charged with sustaining and growing the state’s installations, to supporting businesses and workforce tied to the bases to create stronger ties between New Jersey military bases and the surrounding communities.
“Our military installations clearly play an important role when it comes to national defense, but when you consider the thousands of jobs tied to the military, the businesses that support the installations and the billions of dollars in revenue that the installations generate, the local economic significance of New Jersey’s military installations is irrefutable,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Any legislation that supports our installations, therefore, will have a positive impact on our state as a whole.”
New Jersey’s military installations provide 45,631 direct jobs and 27,603 indirect jobs, according to the July 2015 Military Installation Growth and Development Task Force report. The bases add $6.5 billion of wealth to the state’s gross domestic product and create $9.6 billion in business revenues.
“These proposals are aimed at protecting the existing military facilities while expanding the ties between them, the surrounding communities and the businesses and workforce associated with the installations’ activities,” said DeAngelo. “We saw the impact that the closure of Fort Monmouth had on the state. We must do whatever we can to ensure that another base closure does not happen here.”
The package includes the following bills:
A-2513: The anchor of the legislative package, this bill would create a new office under the Secretary of State specifically designated as the state agency solely focused on protecting military installations and bases while strengthening the relationships between those entities and their local businesses and workforce, as per the recommendation of the task force report.
Under the bill, the ombudsman, to be appointed by the governor, would have expertise in defense, business and government affairs and must have been a New Jersey resident for at least three years before his or her appointment.
Duties of the office would include: fostering productive interactions between federal, state and local governments to position New Jersey’s installation as hubs of development, innovation and economic growth; working to create defense industry clusters and opportunities for investment; and eliminating barriers to investment and growth by businesses and the defense industry.
The ombudsman’s office also would strive to raise awareness of the vitality of the bases by organizing annual tours for the New Jersey congressional delegation and coordinating regular meetings of commanding officers of each military installation. In addition, the ombudsman would collaborate with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to foster synergies between institutions of higher education and the defense industry.
“Communication is key to fortifying our bond with the military bases,” DeAngelo said. “There needs to be an open channel between the installations and bases and all agencies and levels of government necessary to ensure that the needs of everyone connected to them are being met.”
The measure would codify an existing position within the governor’s administration.
A-2514: The bill would permit municipalities to enter into shared services agreements with military bases in New Jersey, as recommended by the task force report.
A-2515: The bill would establish a 12-member New Jersey Military Skills Council in the Department of State to assess the condition of military skills and training in New Jersey and advise the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Education on expenditures from the Workforce Development Partnership Fund and other state funds for the training and education of workers in preparation for jobs with the military and supporting industries.
The council would compile an annual report on: the comprehensive needs of the installations and key industries; employment barriers; opportunities for growth and deficiencies in the current workforce; alignment of curriculum and ways to enroll students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs; development of resources, benefits and outcomes; preparation of workforce development strategies; and engagement of educators, military and industry to ensure workforce alignment.
The council would be comprised of: the Secretary of State, the Adjutant General, the commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the chair of the Employment and Training Commission, the Secretary of Higher Education, the commissioner of the Department of Education, two senators, two members of the Assembly and two public members.
A-2517: The bill would give preference in the consideration of applications for grants for training and employment services to employers who: 1) provide equipment, supplies or services pursuant to a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces 2) are engaged in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) or advanced manufacturing or 3) intend to train veterans.
A-2518: The bill would require that the Military and Defense Economic Ombudsman communicate with installation commanders and representatives of the state, counties and municipalities to minimize land use conflicts between these entities and local planning units.
“Our state’s military installations are huge economic engines for our state. If we do not do what is necessary to sustain them and grow the businesses and workforce connected to them, we risk a dire blow to our state’s economy,” said DeAngelo.
The five military installations located throughout New Jersey are: Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington and Ocean counties; Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County; United States Naval Weapons Station Earle in Monmouth County; Air National Guard 177th Fighter Wing in Atlantic County; and United States Coast Guard Training Center Cape May in Cape May County.
The bills stem from the recommendations of the New Jersey Military Installation Growth and Development Task Force report issued in July. The task force was created by executive order upon the urging of the New Jersey Council on Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs, on which DeAngelo serves.
The five measures were advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs’ Committee, of which DeAngelo is vice-chair.