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Co-operation, Investment Key to Retain Military (JASC recap)

Joint Armed Services Committee Hears Strategic Report

Wednesday, June 26, 2013, Anchorage, Alaska – Alaskans should speak with one voice, advocate for new military equipment and missions, and consider spending state funds to lower energy costs, to avoid losing the benefits of military operations in the state, a consultant told the Legislature’s Joint Armed Services Committee (JASC) Tuesday.

Alaska is home to seven major military and Coast Guard bases which play key roles both in national defense, and in state and local economies.  But federal force restructuring, budget cuts and across-the-board “sequestration” reductions have the Pentagon seeking looking to cut costs at any cost, placing Alaska bases at risk.

“Alaska has tremendous strategic and operational value to our nation’s military,”JASC Co-Chair Rep. Dan Saddler, JBER/Eagle River, said.  “By boldly articulating this value in Alaska and Washington, I believe JASC can help reduce the risk or lessen the impact of any adjustments in Alaska’s military force structure.”

“Interior Alaska has a successful record of advocating for our bases and military personnel at Eielson Air Force Base, Clear Air Force Station, Fort Greeley and Fort Wainwright,” Co-Chair Sen. Pete Kelly, Fairbanks, said.  “We have both the passion, and the facts, to make a powerful case for maintaining federal investment in a strong military in Alaska.”

Steven Hyjek, a consultant to the state, gave JASC the results of his year-long analysis of Alaska’s military forces and evaluation of possible defense budget cuts and restructuring.  His suggestions on how the state might avoid or soften the blow of possible cuts includes:

•        Ensuring Alaskans communicate a consistent message to defense policymakers, emphasizing how the state can help improve base operations, instead of how base closures would hurt Alaska

•        Helping reduce bases’ energy costs, possibly through direct state investment in energy efficiency or supply

•        Improve innovative partnerships and shared service agreements between the military and civilian government and industry

•        Promote national awareness of Alaska’s strategic and operational military value

•        Take advantage of reductions at other bases to attract surplus missions, material and manpower to Alaska

•        Build infrastructure to enhance statewide search-and-rescue capabilities

•        Enhance the quality of life for military service members and families

JASC members will continue working to develop a plan to these recommendations into short- and long-term action plan, Saddler said.

Hyjek’s report noted Alaska’s many strategic military assets, including unparalleled space for training, strategic location allowing power projection to Asia and Europe, national role in missile defense, strong quality of life for military families, and commitment to efficiencies.

Established to fight base closure risks in the 1990s, JASC monitors potential base closures, seeks to attract new military missions, advocates for increased military training in the state, and supports the National Missile Defense system in Alaska.

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