SCRANTON, Oct. 23, 2014 – The commonwealth’s decision to cement in law the ongoing work of its Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission will mean perpetual vigilance for the state’s multi-billion dollar defense industry and the tens-of-thousands of hardworking men and women who work at its installations, state Sen. John Blake said today.
The governor codified the commission when he signed House Bill 1550 into law on Wednesday.
“From the Tobyhanna Army Depot to the 911th Airlift Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport and nine other Pennsylvania military installations in between, the governor’s decision to sign Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission into statute means the commonwealth will be better prepared to defend our vital economic defense engine when the federal government considers cuts,” Blake said today.
“In the past, due to business cycles and changing budget conditions, Pennsylvania was exposed to the adverse impact of unilateral action by a branch of the military if it decided to eliminate the mission of one of our military installations.
“Now that the commission has been codified in statute it will ensure sustained effort and we will have the real-time knowledge and the capacity to protect more than 60,000 workers across the commonwealth who work in Pennsylvania’s defense industry,” Blake said.
The economic impact of the defense industry in Pennsylvania is estimated at $30 billion. Since the inception of the federal Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, process, the commonwealth has lost 18,913 full-time jobs.
Sen. Blake was named one of the commission’s four co-chairmen when Gov. Tom Corbett issued an executive order to create the precursor to the new oversight panel, the Pennsylvania Military Community Protection Commission. Sen. Rich Alloway (R-Adams), Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) and Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware) were the other three co-chairs.
All four lawmakers are part of the 40-plus member Pennsylvania Legislative Military Installations and Base Development Caucus, which Blake helped to create. The caucus also serves as an active forum for lawmakers as it works to improve Pennsylvania’s military installations, expand business development opportunities and protect them from future cuts.
“The permanent presence of the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission sends a message to the civilian and military workforce throughout the state that we appreciate their great work on behalf of our war fighters. It also signals to the Defense Department that Pennsylvania is serious about maintaining the vitality and the utility of our bases,” Blake said. “Through this action, other states will also recognize the strong alignment of this commonwealth with our federal congressional delegation on all matters affecting our military installations.”
Tobyhanna Army Depot is in Blake’s 22nd Senatorial District, but he said the installation means more to him than that.
“Tobyhanna is very close to my heart because my dad worked there for nearly 30 years after serving in the Navy in World War II,” he said. “The quality of life I had growing up was in great measure connected to Tobyhanna.”
Close to 4,000 people now work at the depot, making it one of the largest employers in Northeast Pennsylvania. Its annual economic impact to the region is more than $3 billion.
“I have been proud to work on the commission and very glad to work with my fellow lawmakers, particularly Sen. Rich Alloway,” Blake said. “Sen. Alloway has been a staunch advocate for Pennsylvania’s military installations and he is a big reason why the commonwealth remains vigilant regarding the base closure and realignment process.”
Sen. Blake was the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 1494, the companion proposal to HB 1550.
In addition to Tobyhanna and the 911th Airlift Wing, Pennsylvania’s military installations include the Naval Support Activity and the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, the PA Army and Air National Guard in Ft. Indiantown Gap, the Defense Distribution Center in New Cumberland, Naval Support Activity in Mechanicsburg, Carlisle Barracks and the Army War College, Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, and the 316th Sustainment Command in Coraopolis.