Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pentagon Briefing

Once, the military sector was said to represent a third of the economic activity in Pierce County. But it’s grown by one-third, 13,000 soldiers since that 2003 study.

No wonder that the Chamber’s delegation devotes a significant portion of its time during the annual Washington-to-Washington, D.C. trip. One special aspect of the Chamber’s defense agenda is the appointment and briefing within the Pentagon.

While previous years have made their marks in addressing critical community-installations needs, 2010 set a new benchmark. The Chamber’s delegation was hosted and briefed by Dr. Craig College, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. He was the right man at the right time.

New to the issue table, after having been out of the spotlight, is the need to replace JBLM’s aging wastewater treatment plant. “CH2M HILL’s wastewater engineers were pleased to work with JBLM public works staff in the assessment of their wastewater treatment plant and will continue to support our military as it looks for opportunities to improve infrastructure and better serve soldiers and their families,” said Kathy Hanna, Vice President, CH2M HILL.

Dr. College promised a quick follow-up to the need to replace that plant and suggested the Army should conduct a Utility Privatizitation study to determine the best course. “There are several reasons why this should be pursued—one is of the aging infrastructure, one is capacity and another is the nitrate/nutrient release that could proliferate into 'dead zones.' I encourage them to combine efforts with Pierce County to address the water quality in Puget Sound. And I encourage them to maybe consider partnering with the county as it is essential that the Army or Department of Defense move in the direction that is going to have the maximum benefit protection,” said Pierce County Councilmember Terry Lee.

Of course, the delegation again broached the need for replacement of the aging elementary school facilities on JBLM, owned primarily by the Department of Education, but serviced by the Clover Park School District. Jason Whalen, a council member from the City of Lakewood and attorney with the law firm of Eisenhower & Carlson, PLLC, was pleased with the opportunity to discuss the issue with officials at the Pentagon and with our congressional delegation. "I very much enjoyed the opportunity to continue the discussion of this important issue to our community. I left the meetings, confident that we had been heard. Following our trip, officials from the Office of Economic Adjustment visited JBLM to review the facilities at issue with JBLM, City and School District officials and staff. We are encouraged by the progress made to date," Whalen said.

The Chamber continued to pursue a final resolution of community impacts on the northern Clear Zone at JBLM-McChord Field. After contributions to purchase properties of willing sellers from funds provided by Pierce County, Washington State, Tacoma as matches to Lakewood, Dept. of Defense and Dept. of Air Force dollars, the joint basing action continues to cloud ownership responsibilities. Dr. College promised a renewed dialogue between the Army and Air Force to insure ownership resolution.

The dessert in the ala carte of issues was Lois Bernstein, Senior Vice President for Community Services, MultiCare Health System, who complimented Madigan Army Health Systems for its proactive community role.

This wasn’t just a single shot from the delegation. These issues were carried through in similar meetings with Cong. Norm Dicks, Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, Cong. Adam Smith who sits on the Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Land and Air Forces, other members of Washington’s Congressional delegation and the Office of Economic Adjustment of the Dept. of Defense.

As in D.C. during the Chamber’s trip, the Chamber will continue its advocacy here on behalf of our local military installations and the branches of the armed services which share our community.

Written By Gary Brackett

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