NJ taking the offense to shield military facilities from US cuts

 New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno discusses the task force report at the American Legion Post in Barnegat. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno discusses the task force report at the American Legion Post in Barnegat. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

A task force appointed by Gov. Chris Christie is making recommendations to protect military bases in New Jersey from potential U.S. cutbacks.

The 24-page report unveiled Wednesday at an American Legion Post in Barnegat by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno calls for appointing an ombudsman to coordinate efforts to fortify New Jersey’s defense industry.

The goal is to head off another base closure such as the one at Fort Monmouth in 2011, Guadagno said.

“We tore apart communities. We tore apart families. We tore apart businesses. We lost tens of thousands of people to Aberdeen,” Guadagno said. “I can tell you right now as I stand here today, not on my watch.”

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New Jersey’s military installations have significant value to the state, employing more than 45,000 people and producing nearly $4 billion in economic activity.

Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff, adjutant general of New Jersey, said the state’s bases have served with distinction.

“These bases and their personnel have really safeguarded this nation during every major conflict,” he said. “They’ve provided assistance for domestic support during things like Superstorm Sandy, and they’ve provided thousands of jobs and businesses that are proud to call New Jersey home.”

Shrinking budgets in the Department of Defense will create added pressure in the next few years to cut missions and bases, Cunniff said.

“The states that are really, really good at this are the states that have a united state contingency — the governor’s office, our legislators, the congressional delegation to Washington, the bases, and the community leadership, and of course the veterans communities in the states,” he said. “And if we put all those entities together in New Jersey, there’s absolutely no way we’re going to lose this fight.”

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington and Ocean counties is the largest of New Jersey’s military installations. The others include: the 177th Fighter Wing at Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township; the Coast Guard Training Center at Cape May; Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County; and the Earle Naval Weapons Station in Monmouth County.

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