The MetroWest Daily News - October 18, 2013, By Kendall Hatch
MARLBOROUGH — Local and state officials as well as military personnel brainstormed Thursday about ways that the six military installations across the state could form stronger partnerships with their surrounding communities.
Amid shrinking budgets and the looming possibility of another round of closings of military installations, officials said that it’s imperative that military facilities become not only more efficient, but more ingrained in their communities.
The meeting, held at Marlborough Middle School, was the launch of a community support initiative by the Massachusetts Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force. The task force was formed by Gov. Deval Patrick and former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray last year to examine the assets, infrastructures and potential areas of growth at the state’s six military installations - Barnes Air National Guard Base; Fort Devens; the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center; Hanscom Air Force Base, Joint Base Cape Cod, and Westover Air Reserve Base.
It has been about eight years since the last Base Realignment and Closure Commission process, through which military bases are closed.
Adam Freudberg, executive director of the task force, said the organization tries to ensure that military installations in Massachusetts, which can be a boon to local economies as well as hubs of research and progress, are protected.
"No matter if it’s a formal BRACC - Base Realignment and Closure Commission - or whether its just the ongoing uncertainty with the federal budget we are here to make sure that Massachusetts isn’t disproportionately affected and has a chance to grow," he said.
Officials pointed to a few ways in which military installations could partner with the towns near them, including potential enterprise agreements between the two entities that encourage collaboration. Former Lt. Gov. Murray and Tim Dodd, a local government program manager for the state Executive Office of Administration and Finance, said that Community Innovation Challenge grants could also be a potential way to fund new programs that encourage cooperation.
Murray said that he was at a meeting of the National Lieutenant Governors Association about four years ago, when the crowd was told by a high-ranking military official that, if cuts were made, Pentagon officials would be looking to keep innovative military installations in operation.
"Those communities and those states that are proactive in looking at more cost savings, trying to find partnerships that help work with the military in an integrated and coordinated approach to reducing the cost are going to be ahead of the curve," he recalled being told by the official.
Major General Scott Rice, adjutant general for the state National Guard, said that although there seems to be a disconnect between the military and society in general, there are ways that military installations can try to partner more with surrounding communities.
Rice also said that Massachusetts, as an epicenter of technological and scientific progress, is a natural home for research facilities like Natick Labs and Hanscom Air Force Base. He said that Massachusetts is well-suited for the type of collaboration between military installations and outside communities and industry that leaders are looking for.
"It is critical that we capture and maintain and promote this innovative thing that comes out of our intellectual capital," he said. "With the education institutes we have, with the industry that wee have, with the military that we have, this is the only place in the country where we have huge success in each one of those pillars."
Other officials speaking at the meeting included task force chairman and state Rep. Harold Naughton, Lt. Colonel and Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer, MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones and state Department of Veterans’ Services Secretary Coleman Nee.
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