Monday, May 30, 2011

Military Caucus Aims to Preserve PA Bases

A new bipartisan caucus in the state’s General Assembly hopes to ensure Pennsylvania’s military bases survive the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Military Installations and Base Development Caucus wants to preserve all of Pennsylvania’s installations when the Department of Defense starts its next Base Realignment and Closure Commission, possibly in 2015.

Co-chairman and Senator John Blake says considering both military employment and defense-related business, the state’s bases generate billions of dollars and more than 160,000 jobs.

The Lackawanna County Democrat says the new caucus will be serve as a liaison between the bases, the state legislature, and Congress. Blake says this is especially important in light of the possibility of a Closure Commission in four years. He says to keep its bases, the Commonwealth must be competitive with other states.

“I don’t know if they’ve set it up as a caucus of the general assemblies, but I can tell you that there’s evidence of much stronger dialogue between state legislators and Congressional delegations in other states like Alabama, I believe Louisiana,” says Blake. “There might be other states with heavy defense spending where I think that there’s a more seamless, more routine communication between the federal delegation and the state assembly.”

The Department of Defense lists eight military installations in Pennsylvania on its website, including two in Pittsburgh. Blake says the military caucus will hold its first meetings this fall.