Bill Would Create Military and Defense Economic Ombudsman
Legislation Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, Nancy Pinkin, Sgt. Bob Andrzejczak, Cleopatra Tucker, Herb Conaway and Sgt. Bruce Land sponsored to create a Military and Defense Economic Ombudsman to ensure the economic vitality of military installations in the state gained Assembly approval on Monday.
The bill (A-2513) would establish a Military and Defense Economic Ombudsman in the Department of State. The creation of this position was recommended in the New Jersey Military Installation Growth and Development Task Force Report.
The bill provides that the ombudsman is to be appointed by the governor. A person possessing expertise in the areas of defense, business and governmental affairs, and who has resided in the state for the past 36 months, would be qualified for appointment under the bill.
Under the bill, the Military and Defense Economic Ombudsman would coordinate and implement a strategy to fortify and ensure the economic vitality of the United States military installations in New Jersey and improve the economic environment for the defense industry in this state.
“Communication is key to fortifying our bond with the military bases,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex), vice-chair of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “There needs to be an open channel between the installations and all agencies and levels of government necessary to ensure that the needs of everyone connected to them are being met.”
“In the face of evolving defense needs, we must focus on fostering productive interactions between federal, state and local governments and overseeing efforts to position the state’s military installations as hubs of development, innovation and economic growth,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “This is a common sense idea that should become reality.”
“Our military bases are key to both national security and our economy,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic), a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq. “We need to make their importance clear.”
“This is a step in the right direction,” said Tucker (D-Essex), chair of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Our military installations are vital for many reasons, and we need to make sure people understand their importance.”
“We need to everything we can to position our military installations for long-term success,” said Conaway (D-Burlington), who served in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps. “We must understand what improvements are needed while also promoting their importance and attributes. These facilities must always be attractive to current and future defense planning, industry investment and economic growth.”
“We must do better when it comes to coordinating the state’s efforts by promoting opportunities for defense industry investments,” said Land (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic), a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam. “Anything we can do to create jobs by eliminating barriers to investment and growth by businesses and the defense industry is a good thing.”
The bill directs the ombudsman to undertake various efforts to eliminate barriers to investment and growth by businesses and the defense industry. Specifically, the ombudsman would facilitate the permit and application approval process for businesses with projects related to or supporting military installations; conduct marketing efforts; provide information to federal contactors; create a program to establish mentorship relations between large and small businesses; organize events at military installations to bring together stakeholders focusing on economic development and growth; and, in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, foster synergies between institutions of higher education and the defense industry.
In addition, as part of its education and outreach efforts, the bill directs the ombudsman to organize an annual tour of the state’s military installations for the New Jersey congressional delegation; provide accurate, current, and factual information about the state’s military installations and their attributes to federal partners; and establish and regularly convene meetings with the commanding officers of each military installation to hear directly from them and other high-ranking officials concerning the specific operations and needs at each installation.
The measure, which gained unanimous approval from the Assembly, now awaits further consideration in the Senate.