TRENTON – A package of bills sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would aid military facilities in New Jersey in an effort to avoid closings under the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process was approved today by the Senate.
“In its decisions to close bases across the country, BRAC only takes into account the immediate cost savings to the military, without considering the larger impact on the region’s economy,” said Senator Karcher. “In New Jersey, our bases are linked inextricably to the communities in which they reside, and closure means that thousands of employees, both military and civilian, will have to look for new jobs in new locations, while surrounding industries which rely on the bases for business will take a huge hit. The closing of a military base leaves a hole in the local economy that may take years to fill in, and the State has to do everything in its power to avoid those closings.”
The first bill, S-2206, would expand the membership of the Council on Armed Forces from 10 to 22 members, with the new members including the State Commissioners of Education, Environmental Protection, Community Affairs and Transportation, as well as the Treasurer and the Chair of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education. Additionally, six public members would be added to the Council, bringing the total public members to nine, and of that nine, eight public members would be required to represent community and business support groups for New Jersey’s military installations.
The scope and mission of the Council would also be expanded, and the newly restructured Council would be required to address quality of life issues for New Jersey’s military personnel and their dependents, and facilitate coordinated planning and expedited military construction permits to make base operation easier in the Garden State.
“One of the biggest arguments against New Jersey as a viable base location is that it costs too much to house troops in our State,” said Senator Karcher. “However, the high cost of living in New Jersey also translates to a high quality of life, and our State has much to offer in terms of well-educated talent, close proximity to two major metropolitan areas, and a competitive infrastructure already in place for high-tech business. Having a Council on Armed Forces working as a partner to actively address quality of life issues and ease relations between bases and municipal, county and State government will be another credit in New Jersey’s favor.”
S-2206 was approved by a vote of 36-0 and now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
The second bill, S-2207, would require developers to notify military facility commanders of any proposed development within a 3,000 foot radius of the military facility which might impact on the operations of the facility. Under the bill, a military facility commander would register with the municipality in which a facility resides, and would be allowed to provide input on the potential negative impact that development would have on the facility.
“As New Jersey struggles to find a balance between affordable housing and the local effects of sprawl, open land is at a premium,” said Senator Karcher. “However, we need to protect certain areas which, if developed, might jeopardize the safety of the current inhabitants as well as the new ones. A 3,000 foot buffer zone for military facilities makes sense, allowing the military to conduct training and other exercises without worrying about the safety of civilians whose homes are too close to a base.”
S-2207 was approved by a vote of 36-0 and now heads to the Assembly.
Additionally, Senator Karcher sponsored a resolution honoring the USS Detroit, the last active-duty ship docked in New Jersey, upon its decommission. Senator Karcher argued that, while the ship’s decommission was not done as part of the BRAC process, it symbolizes the cuts from the federal government in New Jersey’s military infrastructure.
“The decommission of the USS Detroit signifies the end of an era of New Jersey involvement in our nation’s strength at sea,” said Senator Karcher. “In the context of our federal government’s pulling of military resources invested in New Jersey, the Detroit will hopefully be a rallying point through which all of our State’s representatives can bridge the political divide and call on the President for greater support for our bases. We have to send the message that we will stand united in our support for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who are stationed in the Garden State, and hopefully, the federal government will hear us loud and clear.”