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Report reveals impact of military bases

Date: 7/2/2012

July 2, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

GREATER SPRINGFIELD — Congressman Richard Neal believes a federal legislative solution to the budget concerns that threaten military bases will be devised, but he praised the effort of Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray in spearheading a proactive campaign to protect the Commonwealth's six military installations.

Speaking to Reminder Publications, Neal described Westover Air Reserve Base "as pivotal to our nation's defense," and said that Barnes Air National Guard Base is "a very modern military base."

Murray's efforts heading the Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force have been in response to a potential cut of $1 trillion to the federal budget, half of which would be made to defense spending. At a press conference in Boston on June 26, a report conducted by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute was made public and it showed the Commonwealth's six military facilities are responsible for more than 45,000 jobs and contribute more than $13.7 billion to the state's economy annually.

Although speakers at the press conference talked about a Jan. 2, 2013 date at which the cuts would be made automatically, Neal said Congress could move that date.

He believes the cut is not going to happen. "It would be so far reaching," Neal said. "Realistically, it's not going to happen."

The automatic cut came as a result of the "Super Committee" in Congress last year not reaching agreement on cutting federal spending, he explained.

Martin Romitti, director of Economics and Public Policy Research at the Donahue Institute, said the study creates "an apples to apples" look at the six bases. The overwhelming amount of economic impact is from the Hanscom Air Force Base and the U.S. Army's Soldier Systems Center in Natick, as both of those facilities have relationships with private firms in the state's innovation economy.

Hanscom contributes nearly $5.5 billion to the economy while Natick pumps $1.6 billion into the state.

Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Adjutant General (Acting), Massachusetts National Guard, said, "What is amazing to me is the synergy [between Hanscom, Natick and the private companies]."

For Westover, the amount is $393 million, while Barnes is $126 million.

Speaking of the effort to keep the six facilities secure, Murray said, "Our work is only beginning."

Neal noted that he and Congressman John Olver had secured much funding for both local bases. He added that both bases have also survived the two most recent Base Closure and Realignment Commissions (BRAC), including the most recent one in 2005, and he did not anticipate the Department of Defense would undertake another one soon.

Neal believes that an assessment to alter a base should be made by the military and "anything constructive [such as this report] is very critical."

There is already discussion going on in Congress about the proposed $1 trillion cut, but Neal doesn't believe much action will be taken to address it until after the presidential election.

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