TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Beach to establish by law the position of Military and Defense Economic Ombudsman in the Department of State – tasked with implementing a strategy to strengthen and ensure the economic vitality of New Jersey’s military installations – was approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
“Our military bases support tens of thousands of jobs and contribute billions of dollars to our economy. Making sure they remain strong and economically vibrant is critical to our state,” said Senator Beach (D-Camden and Burlington). “The ombudsman will make sure the preservation of our military installations is a top priority and that we are taking the necessary action as a state to strengthen them and improve their viability.”
Under the bill (S1999), the Ombudsman would seek to foster productive interactions between federal, State, and local governments and oversee efforts to position the State’s military installations as hubs of development, innovation, and economic growth. The ombudsman’s duties would include, but would not be limited to:
a) identifying vulnerabilities of and threats to the viability of the State’s military installations;
b) recommending strategies and best practices to improve economic outcomes for the State’s military installations and defense industry;
c) coordinating the State’s efforts by promoting opportunities for defense industry investments and working to create defense industry clusters at each military installation;
d) developing productive relationships with the various governmental, industry, and community stakeholders; and
e) disseminating information on the attributes and benefits of the State’s military installations which make them attractive to current and future defense planning, industry investment and economic growth.
The Ombudsman would also undertake various efforts to eliminate barriers to investment and growth by businesses and the defense industry. It would also organize an annual tour of the State’s military installations for the New Jersey Congressional Delegation and would regularly convene meetings with the commanding officers of each military installation to hear directly from them and other high-ranking officials concerning the specific operations and needs at each installation.
The creation of the Ombudsman position was recommended in the New Jersey Military Installation Growth and Development Task Force Report issued July 2015. The position was created by executive order; the bill would make the position permanent, requiring expertise in the areas of defense, business, and governmental affairs. The Ombudsman would be appointed by the Governor.
The legislation was approved by a vote of 13-0. It next heads to the Senate for consideration.