By Rick Rogers
San Diego County needs to organize now to beat back another round of military base closures that San Diego mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio sees looming on the horizon.
New England is all ready rallying to protect its military industrial complex, DeMaio said, and San Diego County needs to do the same.
Base Closure and Realignment Commission – or BRAC — might be the dirtiest four-letter acronym imaginable for military communities like San Diego County with its 120,000 troops, 175,000 dependents and reservists and huge defense contractor presence.
According to a July 2009 report by the National University System Institute for Policy Research, direct and indirect military spending in San Diego County is a staggering $22.3 billion. An estimated $1 of every $7 of regional economic activity here – not to mention nearly 475,000 jobs – is tied to defense spending.
Though the next round of base closures is probably years away, the military is just too important to leave anything to chance, DeMaio said.
If elected, he would push for a staff position in the mayor’s office for military and veterans affairs. He also floated the idea of starting a “veterans ranch” in the San Pascal Valley for homeless and struggling veterans.
He said federal and state money exists to fund such a program and that San Diego “needs to build capacity” to care for them.
DeMaio made the comments at Saturday’s San Diego United Veterans Council meeting.
New England’s regional effort is known as the Defense Technology Initiative and focusing on the area’s technological innovation critical to modern warfare.
New England organizers suggest the next BRAC could come in 2015.
Massachusetts’ senators John Kerry and Scott Brown are all ready meeting to design a six-state region’s strategy.
Lauren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Arlington, Va., policy think tank Lexington Institute, said Defense Secretary Robert has recently said he’d like to some military facilities to close to save money.
But Thompson said there is no will in Washington, D.C., right now to take on the politically bruising chore of piecing together a BRAC.
“There’s no law authorizing any base closures and no is supporting one,” Thompson said. “Past experience says that without some special law that it isn’t going to happen. I can see a need for one, but people will fight tooth and nail to keep their bases.”