Missouri Military leaders gathered in Columbia today to discuss the current and future landscape of the armed forces in the state, as the federal government plans to make cuts to defense spending. One of the main messages from panelists: that different stakeholders in that state must work together toward creating a “military friendly” environment in the state.
“It’s gonna have to be a team effort going forward. It can’t just be a Fort Leonard Word effort, it can’t just be a Whiteman effort, it can’t just be a Rosecran effort, it can’t just be a Jefferson Barracks effort. It has to be a statewide effort… It’s bigger than any just one location anymore,” said Mike Dunbar with the Missouri Military Preparedness and Enhancement commission. Dunbar was one of the panelists at the forum.
U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler hosted the event, which brought together representatives from the military and the communities in Missouri that surround the military bases in the state, to discuss the impact of a possible Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
Hartzler said she wasn’t aware of any actual threats of a BRAC plan on the horizon, but the panelists said that doesn’t mean Missouri leaders can sit tight.
“While they’re may not be a BRAC… There are going to be what we call mission creep. Where basically: we lose a few here or a few there, a few there. Before you know it, there’s already been a BRAC without a BRAC,” Dunbar said.
Officials from Fort Leonard Wood reported the final tally of jobs lost this year at the base through its restructuring process was 855.
When asked by a member of the group what can be done to fend off future cuts, Hartzler ultimately said it will be a fight in the budget making process in the wake of sequestration.
“The number one thing we’ve got to do is replace these sequestration cuts… I asked to be on (the House Budget Committee) because I not only wanted to be able to help produce a budget that balances without raising taxes and show the American people it can happen. But to also be a strong voice for replacing the sequestration cuts in our budget. We did that in the House, so that’s what we’re working under in the house, and we’ll have to work with the senate to do that, but it’s gonna be fight under our fiscal challenge,” Hartzler said.
The attendees also heard a presentation from Mike DuBois with Kit Bond Strategies. The group was contracted to work on a study examining the impact of the military in Missouri. It found that the military spends $15 billion in Missouri annually. That broke down to $11.7 billion in contracts to Missouri-based vendors, $1.56 billion at the major military installations (bases) in the state, $1.67 billion on personnel, minor installations, inactive duty and pensions, $58.3 million in visitor spending, and $16.8 million in impact aid. Of the $11.7 billion in contracts, $8.1 billion goes to Boeing.
DuBois said analyzing that data further, his study showed that through the “multiplier effect,” military spending in the state has an impact on $39.76 billion of economic activity in the state, directly and indirectly supporting 275,000 jobs.
DuBois thought it would be interesting to compare the kind of incentives Missouri offers to the military compared to other industries.
“I would hearken to guess that based on what the economic impact our military provides, that proportionally we may not be providing the same amount to support and defend those efforts that we are to maybe even other smaller industries that dare I say sometimes may be more sexy or they’re just more sexy because they’re new,” DuBois
DuBois says there is still more state leaders can do to make Missouri more appealing to the military as it looks to cut costs.
“We do see more, there’s always more. We look to a lot of other states as models in terms of initiatives they’ve done. Whether it may be infrastructure improvements, roads, shared services. We’re looking at everything because these times are really forcing us to look at all the options on the table, really think creatively about what our communities can do to improve the quality of life of our bases and the operation effectiveness,” DuBois said.
An audience member also asked DuBois about opportunities for Missouri to poach missions from other bases across the country. DuBois told reporters later this is something worth investigating.
“I think there are a lot, but I think there are some with varying degrees of difficulty, and some with varying degrees of ease of obtaining those missions. You try to look for those where you find the most synergies in Missouri where we can have the best value proposition to the department of defense in terms of training and operation and costs. Missouri measures up very well in all those areas so we’re definitely looking at all those missions,” Dubois said.