Early in 2012, as some leaders in Washington raised the possibility of military base realignment and closure proceedings as a defense cost-saving measure, the New England Council took steps to begin to organize our members to support our region’s military installations. The Council had played a significant role in advocating for the region’s bases during the last round of closure proceedings in 2005. While it soon became clear that there would not be any base closure proceedings in the next year, the Budget Control Act and the failure of the Super Committee to reach any agreement, triggering possible sequestration cuts in 2013 spurred significant concern within the defense sector. The defense sector in New England includes a wide range of businesses, from large Department of Defense contractors to the small, precision manufacturers who make up their supply chain. Combined, these companies and organizations employ thousands and pour millions of dollars into the region’s economy.
To best address concerns about both base realignment and closure and the region’s defense sector, the New England Council in 2012 launched a Defense Working Group comprised of Council members with an interest in one or both of these issues. The group was established to serve as a forum for information sharing and as a vehicle for Council members to work collaboratively in support of the region’s military bases and defense sector. The Defense Working Group is co-chaired by board member Kevin Conroy of Foley Hoag, a former NEC staff member who led the Council’s efforts during the 2005 base closure proceedings, and Joseph Donovan, Managing Director at Nelson Mullins who specializes in the defense sector.
KC 46-A at Pease Air National Guard Base
In May 2013, the U.S. Air Force announced that Pease Air National Guard Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was one its top choices as the site for the new KC-46A mid-air refueling tanker. In March 2014, The New England Council submitted written comments supporting Pease’s selection as the base for this new aircraft as part of the Air Force’s Environmental Impact Study. In it’s letter, the Council noted that the selection of Pease would have tremendous economic an public safety benefits for the region. In particular, the selection of Pease would bring much-needed new jobs to our region, including 70 full-time and 50 part-time jobs, addition an additional $7 million to the local payroll. In addition, if Pease is selected, our region’s economy and local communities will benefit from $45 million in military construction. On the public safety front, the region would benefit from enhanced FEMA region 1 response and increased cargo and aeromedical evacuation capacity. The New Hampshire House and Senate delegations, as well as Governor Maggie Hassan, all support Pease’s selection as the base for the KC-46A.
Recognizing that safeguarding the region’s military bases and defense sector was likely a priority to a variety of other business groups large and small throughout the region, The New England Council conducted outreach over the course of 2012 to build a coalition of regional business leaders in support of defense interests in the region. The Council convened meetings in Boston and Hartford, inviting the leaders of chambers of commerce and other regional and state-wide business associations to discuss ways in which the various like-minded organizations can collaborate to support defense activities in the region. As cuts are implemented in the coming months and years, the coalition stands ready to share resources and speak with one united voice on behalf of the region’s business community.
Support for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program
The looming threat of sequestration threatened a variety of Department of Defense projects in 2012 One major project, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, has a significant impact, not only on our national defense, but also on our economy here in New England. The F-35 directly and indirectly supports more than 133,000 high-paying, jobs across this country, pumping more than $17 billion into the national economy and supporting 1,350 suppliers in 45 states and Puerto Rico. New England is home to 269 suppliers to the F-35 program, pouring nearly $1.5 billion into our region’s economy and providing jobs to well over 18,000 people.
In November 2012, the New England Council sent letters outlining this significant economic impact to all members of the New England Congressional delegation. The letters provide the Members of Congress with data specific to the states they represent, and urge them to support the program as defense cuts are considered.
In December 2012, the NEC’s Defense Working Group hosted a Capitol Hill Discussion of Federal Defense Spending in Washington, DC. The event featured remarks from two members of the House Armed Services Committee: Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC).
Following the Representatives’ remarks, Defense Working Group Chair and NEC Board Member Kevin Conroy moderated a panel discussion featuring Congressional staffers for members of the New England delegation who specialize in defense issues. The well-attended event, hosted by NEC member Nelson Mullins, was an excellent opportunity for NEC members in the defense sector to get the latest updates from those on the front lines of fighting for defense spending on Capitol Hill.