~Inaugural Meeting held on Capitol Square in Richmond~
~Commission will focus on sequestration and BRAC~
RICHMOND – Last week, retired Navy Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr., chairman of the newly-created Virginia Commission on Military Installations and Defense Activities, called the commission’s inaugural meeting to order in the Patrick Henry Building on Virginia’s Capitol Square in Richmond. Harvey, now a resident of Charlottesville, retired in 2012 as commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell created the commission on March 1st by signing Executive Order Number 60, after the implementation of automatic federal sequestration cuts.
This first gathering of the commission marks the start of a series of meetings that will take place over the next year, and perhaps beyond, to minimize the effects of sequestration on the Commonwealth, particularly in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. It will also focus on reducing the impacts of future Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) rounds that have been forecasted for 2015 and 2017. The last BRAC round in 2005 closed Fort Monroe in Hampton and threatened to close Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach.
In signing the order last month, McDonnell stated that “a projected $600 billion of sequester defense cuts over 10 years, on top of the $487 billion in cuts already in place, is an unsustainable burden on our military in an unstable and volatile world….Multiple studies show that approximately 130,000 to over 200,000 Virginia jobs could be lost because of these arbitrary cuts.”
In addition to the appointment of Admiral Harvey as chairman, McDonnell rounded out the 10-person commission by designating nine additional members.
Appointed were two legislators, Del. Richard L. Anderson (R-Prince William), a retired 30-year Air Force colonel who represents the 51st House District in the General Assembly, and Sen. Bryce E. Reeves, an Army veteran who represents the 17th Senatorial District. Together, Anderson and Reeves co-chair the General Assembly Military and Veteran Caucus, which oversees legislation affecting 830,000 veterans in Virginia. It also touches an additional 100,000 members of the Active, Guard, and Reserve components who serve at Virginia installations.
McDonnell also appointed four cabinet secretaries to the commission on the basis of their responsibilities for public safety matters. These include Secretary of Finance Richard D. Brown, Secretary of Commerce and Trade James S. Cheng, Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Terrie L. Suit.
Also appointed were retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Albert J. Edmonds of Alexandria, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Emerson N. Gardner of Arlington, and retired Army Lt. Gen. John R. Wood of Alexandria. Along with Admiral Harvey, these three senior officers will bring service-specific expertise to the commission process.
During the first meeting, commission members were sworn in and received briefings from subject-matter experts on the history of past BRACs, the economic and fiscal impact of DoD spending in Virginia, and various tools that will be used to mitigate the impact of sequestration and future BRACs. Commission members also discussed the commission structure, work plan, and strategy.
Following the meeting, Del. Anderson stated that “this inaugural session was a great start to lessening the impact of sequestration on our neighbors in Northern Virginia and in Hampton Roads, as well as the impact of future BRAC rounds on the entire state. I’ve already heard from hundreds of Prince William residents about how sequestration is affecting their livelihood. In the near future, Sen. Reeves and I will announce a Sequestration Town Hall in eastern Prince William County to discuss our plan of attack.”
Anderson also plans to create a Prince William Sequestration Advisory Panel in the coming weeks. He stated that “I want and need to hear first-hand from those who are hardest hit by sequestration. I’m eager to hear from anyone who wants to share their perspective, and I can best be reached at our legislative district office at 571-264-9983 or at my direct email address, DelRAnderson@house.virginia.gov. By working as a team, we’ll get through this challenge together.”