OMA: No change seen for state's military presence

No Change Seen for State's Military Presence
 
By Jennifer McDermott
The Day
December 10, 2010

Malloy: Defense facilities a critical cog in the state's economy
 
Gov.-elect Dan Malloy is not planning any radical changes in how the state government interacts with the military in southeastern Connecticut.
 
Malloy plans to continue with initiatives begun during the current administration - from paying for improvements at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton to maintaining an office focused on the state's defense interests.
 
Malloy said Wednesday that the economic impact of the Groton base and of submarine manufacturer Electric Boat, combined with the number of retirees and active-duty personnel who live in the region, is "very, very important to the state."
 
The base alone employs close to 10,000 people and has a $3 billion annual impact on the state's economy. EB, which is on the cusp of ramping up submarine production, also employs about 10,000 people.
 
"There is no denying that the military presence in Connecticut, particularly in the southeast portion, is extremely important to the economy," said Malloy, who toured the base this summer and plans to visit EB soon.
 
Malloy, a Democrat who will take the reins from Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Jan. 5, is faced with a budget deficit of roughly $3.5 billion. But he said that economic circumstances would not impede future investments by the state in the submarine base.
 
The state gave the Navy $7.65 million last year to make improvements at the base and, in September, formally offered the Navy another $3.22 million for two more projects. The legislature has authorized $40 million for improvements at the facility.
 
If there is an appropriate project at the base for the state to play a role in, Malloy said, "we'll be prepared to play that role." He said spending decisions are based on priorities, and "the retention of the base is a very high priority."
 
Congress authorized the Defense Base Closure and Realignment process in 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 2005. Many have predicted that another BRAC is inevitable since the administration wants to curb defense spending. Team Connecticut, as it was called, helped fight the Pentagon's attempt to close the Groton base in 2005. Rell was a part of that effort.
 
Malloy said he plans to maintain a "strong working relationship" with the military. If the base is in jeopardy again, he said, the state would "make our case aggressively and I think effectively."
 
One of the responsibilities of the state's Office of Military Affairs is to keep tabs on any developments regarding BRAC and to help with initiatives to protect the base. Bob Ross is the current executive director.
 
Malloy said he presumes that the state will maintain the office, but he has not decided who will lead it. Malloy has already announced national searches to select commissioners for several Connecticut agencies, but he said there was no reason to go outside the state for the executive director job.




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