Drawn-out budget fights hurt US defense communities

Investing in our country’s defense infrastructure is critical to sustaining missions, supporting military families and protecting our national security. No one understands this more than the Association of Defense Community’s members — the communities, states and regions that have long served as proud homes to our military installations.

For five years our nation’s defense budget has faced a period of unprecedented turmoil. Austerity measures including the Budget Control Act, sequestration, the 2013 government shutdown, five episodes of planning for shutdowns, and a series of continuing resolutions rather than on-time budgets have seriously damaged the military, its readiness and our nation’s installations. Added to this has been the plan to cut 40,000 soldiers from the Army over the next two years.

{mosads}Without a cogent plan from Congress to efficiently budget funds where they are most needed, this period of turmoil has consumed the Pentagon’s time and wasted precious resources.

Our nation’s defense infrastructure — its bases, facilities and training grounds — is feeling the brunt of this indecision and uncertainty. So too are the communities, regions and states that steadfastly support our nation’s military bases and families. They are experiencing the economic hits of falling tax revenues, struggling small businesses and declining home values as departing service members and their families move away. Adding insult to injury, aging infrastructure may soon sit empty on mothballed bases.

This has led us to a crossroads that will define the future of our installations and the communities that support them. The ongoing inertia of political indecision should not guide our strategy regarding the military or our installations. We need to make the tough choices that will move us forward on a path that will end turmoil and restore certainty.

As the communities, states and industry partners that support our military bases, we know there is a better way. Strategic decisions, even tough ones, need to be made now to ensure our military infrastructure is ready to meet the threats that face our nation. Communities can overcome whatever obstacles come their way — even BRAC — but to be prepared, they need certainty and direction from policymakers willing to make difficult decisions.

We need to embrace partnerships and collaboration among community, industry and the military as a driving force in how we think about defense installations. It will be these partnerships that lead us in the direction toward a base of the future that is strategic, efficient and responsive to the needs of our nation’s defense, as well as the installations, service members, veterans, families and businesses that call America’s defense communities home.

Cooper is president of the Association of Defense Communities.

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