Legislation Would Create Military and Defense Economic Ombudsman, Provide Incentives for Hiring Veterans and Businesses Connected to Military Bases
(TRENTON) – Four bills as part of a comprehensive legislative package sponsored by Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo (D-Hamilton) to ensure the economic vitality of military bases were released on Thursday by the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
“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, vice-chair of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
New Jersey’s military installations provide 45,631 direct jobs and 27,603 indirect jobs. They add $3.8 billion in gross domestic product directly and $2.7 billion in GDP indirectly to New Jersey’s economy.
“These bills aim to protect 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.”
Legislative initiatives released by the committee include:
· (A-4724) Establishing the New Jersey Military Skills Council to assess the military skills and training education of workers to prepare them 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.
· (A-4726) Providing preference for workforce development grants to employers who provide equipment, supplies or services to military bases and installations. The bill would give priority funding for training programs for employers contracted with the military, a STEM field or providing employee retention training to veterans.
· (A-4727) Requiring consideration of proximity to military bases when evaluating and ranking applications for farmland preservation and recreation and conservation purposes. Under the bill, the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) and the Green Acres program would give additional weight to the acquisition of properties for open space, farmland preservation or recreation and conservation purposes surrounding an active federal military installation to reduce the possibility of incompatible development adjacent to them.
“The cumulative impact of these bills will raise the public’s awareness of the benefits of our state’s military installations,” said DeAngelo. “We must do everything that we can to protect the jobs that are directly on bases and indirectly linked to them. It is in the state’s best interest that we do not take the economic impact of the five military bases for granted.”
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 came about 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 bills will now be considered by the Assembly Speaker for an assembly floor vote.