Military Base Closing Worries Voiced in NJ [AUDIO]
Efforts are being mounted in Ocean and Burlington Counties to prevent one of the region's largest employers and economic drivers from shutting its doors as another round of federal Base Realignment and Closure decisions in 2017 threatens to shutter Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Ocean County Planning Director Dave McKeon said even though there's been no mention of JBMDL closing, there's always a concern. "Obviously the defense budget has been cut and continues to be under threat. The larger issue is that we are in somewhat of a competition with the other states in the country."
Stakeholders in Ocean and Burlington Counties, where the JBMDL is located, have formed a group called the Defense Enhancement Coalition to organize their lobbying efforts. The group will help promote the value of the JBMDL to officials in Washington as a base that's already geared to support a streamlined military as it serves all branches of the armed forces in training and deploying troops.
McKeon said the Joint Base concept was the brain child of former Congressman Jim Saxton who led efforts to keep the JBMDL off the chopping block during the last round of BRAC.
"For many years, Ocean County was part of the Friends of Navy Lakehurst and they worked with our congressional delegation to protect the base during previous rounds - this is now a new effort because we're working with our partners in Burlington County," McKeon said.
The group isn't just focused on keeping the base from closing, but in keeping the entire contiguous joint base structure intact. "Each one of those branches, the Lakehurst, the Dix, the McGuire do important functions on their own, but they are more and more working in collaboration and it's really hard to pull that collaboration a part once it's already been established," McKeon said.
The Ocean County Mayors' Association will hear BRAC prevention strategies on March 25.