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Community Support Essential for Military Installations, DOD Official Says

June 12, 2019 | BY David Vergun
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People in communities across America appreciate having military installations nearby because they provide jobs, tax revenue and support national security, the assistant secretary of defense for sustainment told attendees of the 2019 Defense Communities National Summit in Washington.

"If you have a military installation in your community, it's a right, not a privilege, and you have to earn that right every day," Robert McMahon said yesterday.

There's no guarantee that future defense budgets will be as adequate as they are today, he said, and that could mean cuts to installations that affect the surrounding communities. Also, there is always that potential for a future base realignment and closure, where installations are shuttered, as has happened in the past, McMahon noted.

Communities that support their installations will fare much better than those that don't do as much, he predicted.

Community Support to Installations

McMahon provided some examples of community support that benefits installations as well as the communities themselves.

A young woman in a cap and gown hugs a woman at a graduation.
Commencement Exercise
Markeisha L.B. Young embraces a friend after the commencement exercises of Prince George High School, Va., June 11, 2016, at the school's athletic complex. She was one of 423 graduates, mostly military kids from neighboring Fort Lee, Va.
Photo By: Terrance Bell, Army
VIRIN: 160611-A-US054-703

School quality is a major concern among families, he said. Communities that work to improve learning environments are much welcomed, and sometimes, federal grants are available to do this, McMahon said.

Ensuring that the community is a safe place to live is another concern, he said. Not just safe from crime, McMahon said, but with safe drinking water, safe housing and infrastructure safeguards to mitigate natural disasters such as flooding and cybersecurity.

Civilian first responders wearing reflective vests help a role-player as military personnel look on.
Active Shooter Exercise
Naval Support Activity Mid-South security forces and Shelby County Sheriff's officers help simulated injured personnel during an active shooter exercise in Millington, Tenn., Feb. 6, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Mason Gillan
VIRIN: 190206-N-MU551-0305

Communication between communities and installations is the key to making this all happen, McMahon said. One of the first steps community leaders can take is to meet with their installation commander and discuss mutual concerns.

Communities and their installations are places where service members and their families "live, eat, work, play and pray," he said. As such, ensuring a high quality of life will help ensure that installations are permanent fixtures.

Mark Correll, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for environment, safety and infrastructure, noted that it's also important for communities and defense manufacturers to work together to support each other in similar ways.

Military and civilian personnel hold a meeting at a table.
Partnership Conference
Government and military personnel learn about intergovernmental and community partnerships during the Army Community Partnership Kick-off and Needs and Capacity Conference, April 25, 2019, at Fort McCoy, Wisc. Leaders from Fort McCoy, tenant organizations, and local government agencies participated in the conference. The effort was in support of the Army Community Partnership Program.
Photo By: Scott T. Sturkol, Army
VIRIN: 190425-A-OK556-105

Examples of Military-Community Cooperation

John A. Kliem, executive director of the Navy's Energy Security Programs Office, said Naval Support Activity Mid-South and the city of Millington, Tennessee, collaborated on a win-win project for both. The Navy leased 450 acres to the community for a horse farm and solar farm and the air station received lower rates on their energy bill.

A second example, he said, is Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, which is working with the city of Honolulu to provide reliable energy required to meet the needs of Navy and Air Force missions.

Men wearing winter clothes and hard hats install metal brackets in snowy conditions.
Solar Installation
A construction crew installs a solar array at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Jan. 9, 2018. The new system is being installed through an Energy Savings Performance Contract that costs the government no money up front. During the 23-year arrangement, Energy Solutions Group will operate and maintain the system.
Photo By: Ronald Bradshaw, Air Force
VIRIN: 190109-F-OD616-0004A

A third example, Kliem said, is Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, which is working with the community of Groton to get a natural gas backup in case power to the grid goes out as it did in 2012, when Superstorm Sandy swept through.