Recent announced proposals by Westover Air Reserve Base and Hanscom Air Force Base reflect a difficult reality that federal budget cuts will have an impact on military bases in Massachusetts and across the country. These proposals were unveiled shortly after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced plans to reduce military spending by approximately $500 billion over the next decade. While these developments highlight the challenges we face ahead in Massachusetts, the military presence in Massachusetts is too important for our national security and economy to be taken for granted.
As the debate unfolds in Washington D.C. and across the country, it is important for Massachusetts to showcase and support the vital missions of our active military installations. As part of its budget cuts, the Defense Department proposed that Congress establish another Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) to consider and implement possible base closures throughout the country. There has been strong, vocal opposition to this proposal, including from our own Congressional delegation, which is working hard with our Administration to protect our bases. We all must, however, be prepared in case this BRAC becomes a reality.
Massachusetts bases coupled with businesses in the defense and aerospace industries generate more than 120,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Defense contracts awarded to Massachusetts companies have almost tripled since 2000, because of our state’s strong, innovation-based economy and our world-class education, research and engineering institutions that support it. This is just one example of how important the military and defense industry is to Massachusetts, and we know there is plenty more information to best position and promote each military base to better position, promote, and protect these assets.
Over the last year, I led a series of strategy meetings with our cabinet secretaries, and private sector groups such as the Massachusetts Defense Technology Initiative, to gather current data and perspectives, and today, I signed an Executive Order formalizing these ongoing efforts by creating the "Commonwealth’s Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force.” In addition to engaging local and regional support to help promote and protect the state’s military bases, the Task Force will develop, coordinate, and implement actions in the areas of workforce training, infrastructure improvements, environmental and utility savings, housing and transportation to support the missions at military bases across the Commonwealth. Additionally, the Task Force will identify step the state can take to remedy problem areas before preliminary recommendations from the federal government are adopted and missions are implemented. Lastly, I along with all members of the Task Force will advise the Governor and Executive and Legislative Branch officials regarding the ongoing efforts by the U.S. Department of Defense to close, realign, restructure, streamline, or in any way impact military bases in Massachusetts.
As I move forward with the work of the Task Force, I am also visiting the state’s six major military bases to get a first-hand look at their operations, raise public awareness of their missions, and strengthen local and regional partnerships important for the bases. I began the tour at Barnes Air National Guard Base, an exemplary base that provides 24-hour protection for the northeastern region of the United States. Over the next few months, I will also visit Westover, Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod, the Natick Soldier Systems Center and Fort Devens. Understanding and promoting the strategic location, national security mission, and economic impact of these bases is a true statewide initiative. Our work in this region must extend to other military bases in Massachusetts as we plan for base consolidations nationally.
In light of federal budget challenges, as the military collectively looks to deliver greater efficiencies and savings, we as a Commonwealth need to put our best foot forward to promote, protect, and even expand missions at each base in Massachusetts.