06/22/17 — Bill designed to safeguard N.C. bases

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Bill designed to safeguard N.C. bases

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 22, 2017 7:06 AM

The military is a $66 billion industry in North Carolina -- an economic engine that the state must safeguard, said Sen. Don Davis of Snow Hill.

A bill co-sponsored by Davis calls for the state's Military Affairs Commission to adopt a comprehensive strategic plan to enhance North Carolina military installations and their missions.

The bill, waiting to signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper, may very well be one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out of this session, Davis said.

"This bill makes clear our strategic objectives and priorities as a state to preserve our military assets," said Davis, who represents District 5 that includes Seymour Johnson Air Force base. "Our military industry is the second largest in the state. We must learn from our past and secure the future of Seymour Johnson AFB. After all, it employs about 7,000 with an economic impact of about $600 million.

"We must, and I believe we will, be better prepared for any future rounds of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) as a result of this bill. Eastern North Carolina would be crippled if we were to wake up one day to the news of base closures."

The strategic plan is to include specific objectives related to the following topics:

* Supporting and enhancing existing military installations and missions.

* Attracting new military assets and missions to North Carolina.

* Expanding military-related economic development in North Carolina.

* Improving the quality of life for military members and their families, military retirees and veterans.

* Advocating military-related issues to the General Assembly, the Congress and state and federal agencies.

* Any other topic related to enhancing North Carolina military installations and their missions.

The plan is to be updated every four years.

Also, the commission will conduct annual reviews of the state's performance based on the plan and report its findings to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Government.

Three Wayne County residents serve on the state Military Affairs Commission: Jeremiah Daniels, vice president of operations for Daniels and Daniels Construction Co., Goldsboro Mayor Allen and Medal of Honor recipient Col. Joe Marm.

House Majority Leader John Bell of Goldsboro represents the state House as an ex-officio member.

The plan will look at issues such as encroachment and how to make sure the military is first and foremost in the community, Bell said.

It also is important to look at what the state needs to do to prepare for BRAC and what it can do to continue to be the most military friendly state in the country, Bell said.

"That is our goal," he said.

There is no funding attached to the bill. It simply sets the stage for the study, Bell said.

"The Division of Military and Veterans Affairs is what, three years old?" Bell said. "The cabinet-level position is only three years old. We need to learn how we can support our military bases and support our veterans and where we kind of need to target our time, energy and effort."

Other sponsors of the bill were Republican Sens. Harry Snow of Jacksonville, Warren Daniel of Morganton and Norman Sanderson of Arapahoe.

Brown represents District 6 includes Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River.

Sanderson represents District 2 that includes Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

Daniels represents District 46 in northwestern North Carolina.