WRIGHTSTOWN — With more than 44,000 jobs and $6.5 billion in economic impact, being proactive in protecting Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is not simply important, it’s imperative, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney said yesterday on a visit to the base.
Sweeney visited the base to discuss the Legislature’s efforts to prevent military base closures in the state as a result of defense budget cuts, including a $200,000 appropriation in the 2015 state budget signed Monday evening by Gov. Chris Christie for the Council on Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs to use to protect the joint base and Picatinny Arsenal.
“We really have to make even a stronger case nationally — that we need to keep these bases here,” Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said.
Sweeney said the joint base is the state’s second-largest employer, and Picatinny Arsenal employs more than 5,000 civilians, military personnel and contractors.
“When you do a state budget — you’re certain that they’re not just numbers. They’re people, they’re jobs,” he said. “It’s important to be in the very best position to defend our employment opportunities.”
The Legislature’s efforts are in response to announcements by the U.S. Department of Defense that as part of budget cuts, it plans to reduce the size of the Armed Forces to pre-World War II levels and is pushing for its sixth Base Realignment and Closure round in 2017.
Although there has been no confirmation that New Jersey’s bases will be on the chopping block in 2017, state representatives said that they need to be proactive now in protecting the bases.
Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) sponsored a resolution that calls on Congress to exclude the joint base and arsenal from consideration in future defense budget cuts.
The resolution passed the Assembly and was filed with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno on June 26. Singleton said he worked on the resolution with Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-12th Dist.) and a host of other colleagues of varying political affiliations.
“We wanted to make sure that we send a unified voice from New Jersey to make sure that the joint base stays safe,” he said. “Government, when it works best, is about partnership, and today is a firm example of that.”
Fort Dix, McGuire Air Force Base and Naval Air Station Lakehurst merged in 2009 as a compromise from the last Base Realignment and Closure round in 2005, becoming the nation’s only three-branch military base. Fort Monmouth was also included in the round of cuts and officially closed in 2011.