An Assembly panel on Monday released legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Herb Conaway, Adam Taliaferro and Cleopatra Tucker to help protect and preserve military bases across New Jersey.
The sponsors said the announcement of the closings of additional military facilities across the country under the Base Realignment and Closure process beginning in October 2015 was the impetus for the legislation.
“This is a proactive measure to ensure the protection of our own military installments if they lose federal funding,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “This legislation is vital to the thousands of New Jersey’s military families whose livelihoods depend on these military bases.”
“Earmarking funds now for the preservation of our military bases is crucial to New Jersey’s economic future,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “The closing of any of the bases means job loss, a rise in the unemployment rate, a decrease in state revenue and a slower economic recovery than we have already experienced. This legislation is a step the state must take to help military bases and the communities surrounding them.”
The bill (A-323) would require an annual appropriation not to exceed $200,000 from the general fund to the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs for the preservation of military installations in the event federal action results in base realignment and closure.
The sponsors note that the economic impact of the installations is vital to New Jersey’s economy. The bases currently employ approximately 73,000 military personnel, federal civilian employees and contractors, and they add $6.5 billion of wealth to the state’s gross domestic product and create $9.6 billion in business revenues.
“Many nearby communities rely upon the jobs and services provided by a military base,” said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester). “There will be much that we must do to preserve our military installments. An annual appropriation for the preservation of the military bases located in the state is a good place to start.”
“This is about our military families and the communities that depend on nearby bases to live and make a living,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “New Jersey’s five military bases are each a viable and important part of their communities. We have to prepare to provide them with the support they need to make it in an unpredictable future.”
The bill would require a competitive contracting process to be followed every two years for any contract or agreement with a lobbyist or governmental affairs agent to assist with the preservation of military installations.
In 2015, the state established the New Jersey Military Installation Growth and Development Task Force to help better position New Jersey in the event of future BRAC cuts. The task force’s report outlined recommendations for New Jersey to pursue to help maintain and enhance missions on the military bases and avoid cuts.
New Jersey has five military bases: Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Picatinny Arsenal, Earle Naval Weapons Station, the 177th Fighter Wing in Egg Harbor Township and the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May.
The measure was released by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, of which Tucker is chair.