(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo sponsored to create a Military and Defense Economic Ombudsman to protect New Jersey’s military bases and facilities was released Thursday by an Assembly committee.
The bill (A-4723) 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.
“Our state’s military installations are huge economic engines for our state,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex), vice-chairman of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee that released the bill. “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.”
Under the bill, the Ombudsman would be appointed by the governor and would need to have expertise in defense, business and governmental affairs. 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.
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.
“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 bill was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.