President Barack Obama’s budget for the next fiscal year holds the possibility for cuts at some of the country’s military bases, and that has stoked concern among the more than 40,000 employed at South Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Leading the charge against the specter of cuts at the base is freshman U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, whose 3rd District includes the base.
“I hear it every day,” MacArthur said. “The area of Southern New Jersey that I represent is one of the largest military communities in the United States. It’s people that work at the base, it’s the business and communities that surround the base. It’s 65,000 veterans who live in my district, the largest number in the state. These people are keenly focused on the future of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.”
MacArthur, a Republican, and nine other elected officials wrote the Department of Defense a letter last month urging the Pentagon to find spending cuts in places other than military bases, citing terrorism threats abroad as the reason to keep the country’s military outposts robust.
U.S. Reps. Donald Norcross, Frank Pallone Jr., Democrats, and Republicans Leonard Lance, Chris Smith and Frank LoBiondo, all of New Jersey, are among those who also signed MacArthur’s letter.
“That way I see it, we face the most serious and unpredictable threats in my lifetime today,” MacArthur said Thursday. “The idea that we’re going to do (BRAC) all over again and leave ourselves weakened militarily, I think, is a mistake.”
In December, Obama visited the base to welcome home tens of thousands of troops who completed tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2005, a BRAC process examined McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix and Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst for possible closure. Instead, the three facilities were consolidated, creating an unusual triservice site.
Just south of Trenton, it’s the second-largest employer in New Jersey.
MacArthur admitted the local impact of a base isn’t always part of the calculus when the Pentagon looks to scale back costs.
“If BRAC becomes the focal point for trying to save money, then this base and many others are at risk,” he said.