By Senator Steve Knight
An economic sector that provides hundreds of thousands of jobs and generates hundreds of billions of dollars to California’s economy is something we need to ensure remains in our state. The Defense Industry has been a driving force in job creation, economic growth, and national security, but we must never take them for granted. It is incumbent upon state leaders and citizens of this great state to support an industry that has given us so much.
With that in mind, I am humbled and honored to have been a part of the inaugural meeting of the Governor’s Military Council, which convened in Sacramento on Tuesday, June 11. Established in March, the Council was created by Governor Brown to protect and expand our military’s vital role in national security and California’s economy. As a veteran of the U.S. Army, I have a vested interested in offering insights to my peers, and I hope to provide a legislative perspective as both Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Defense and Aerospace and Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Comprised of retired admirals and generals from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the California National Guard, in addition to business leaders with significant experience in the defense industry, and a bipartisan group of California’s legislature: myself and Richard Roth (D-Riverside) from the Senate and Assemblymembers Rocky Chávez (R-Oceanside) and Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), our 19-member council will provide insight to state and federal leaders who are developing strategies that support and grow military operations in the state. Ellen Tauscher, former Congresswoman and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, chairs the Council, and I have no doubt that her experience and expertise will prove to be tremendously valuable as we continue to convene and work toward our primary objective: safeguarding our state’s and our nation’s security and economy.
We established several goals at our first meeting to further the objectives of the Council. First and foremost, we intend to protect our California military installations from any potential Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) proceedings, which aim to dispose of United States Department of Defense real estate. More than 350 installations have been closed in five BRAC rounds: 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 2005. It has been rumored that 2015 may bring a new round of BRAC. California has seen these closures occur in the past, and it has proven to be detrimental not only to the military, but civilian Californians as well.
One of my personal objectives is to protect the interests of the 21st Senate District, specifically Edwards Air Force Base and Plant 42, an essential testing site for major military contractors . Due to its close proximity to Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, Edward’s Air Force Base is a proven asset; hopefully this will ensure our future is protected from BRAC. Thankfully, having an ally in Tom Berard, former Executive Director of the EAFB Air Force Flight Test Center, on this esteemed Council will help safeguard the community from any harmful closures.
Many other states have also taken a proactive role to avoid these damaging closures by convening councils and committees very similar to ours. In order to keep in line with the rest of the nation and to prove our commitment to the military in California, it is essential that our Council have a strong and powerful presence. We will counsel our federal delegation on how to best represent California on the national level, ensuring our priorities are identified, articulated, and held in the highest esteem. California has a great advantage in the large number of representatives we have in Washington, D.C., however it is imperative that we relay California’s message to these national representatives so they may effectively protect our assets.
In addition to federal legislation, the Council stressed the importance of introducing bills sponsored by the Governor’s Council to the California Legislature to make certain that existing California installations are not infringed upon and that we cultivate an environment that is conducive to job creation and friendly to business. Maintaining and growing the aerospace industry—a major job creator, economic asset, and valuable security resource—in California has consistently been a legislative priority of mine and will continue to be for years to come. I sincerely look forward to introducing additional legislation that will bolster the aerospace, defense, and military industries in this state, particularly with the backing and sponsorship of the Governor’s Military Council.
I am proud to have been selected to serve on this Council, pleased to be working with such esteemed colleagues, and I look forward to playing a direct role in California, our nation, and our district’s security and economy.