SAN DIEGO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown launched a major push Thursday to bolster California’s military installations and defense industries amid federal cutbacks by establishing a council of retired generals and admirals to promote the state.
The 18-member Governor’s Military Council will be led by former congresswoman and Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher. It will include former military leaders from different branches, along with state lawmakers and business leaders, Brown’s office announced.
“California plays a crucial role in our nation’s defense, and military bases and activities are vital to our state’s economy,” Brown said in a statement. “As federal priorities shift to cyber security and new military technology, this council will work to expand defense-industry jobs and investment in California.”
California is home to 29 federal military installations. The Pentagon directly employs more than 236,000 people in the state.
Brown said the council will work to protect that presence.
The council does not expect to have a major impact on automatic federal spending cuts that went into effect March 1, said council spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Keegan of the California National Guard.
But it expects to be able to impact Washington’s decisions beyond that, Keegan said, pointing out that the Pentagon is shifting its focus from the Middle East to the Pacific Rim with the winding down of the war in Afghanistan.
California’s location makes it a prime spot in that new military strategy, Tauscher said.
The council will send a unified message to Washington that highlights California’s assets, including the fact that the state serves as the gateway to Asia with well-established military bases and companies leading the way in technology and other fields needed by the armed forces.
“We will make sure we’re doing everything we can to be in the forefront of the country’s military future,” she said.
The council will meet once a year and draft recommendations to Brown and the state Legislature.
The automatic federal spending cuts are expected to touch a vast range of government services. Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have painted a dire picture of construction projects on hold, limits on patrols by aircraft carriers, and the layoffs of thousands of temporary and contract employees with the Defense Department.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.