Pennsylvania's military needs its own defense, local lawmakers say.
State Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, is a member of a new commission to advocate for Pennsylvania military bases in the face of $487 billion in upcoming federal Department of Defense cuts.
Perry said the federal government has already agreed to nearly half a trillion dollars in cuts to the military nationwide over the next decade, and there is local concern some of those cuts could land at Pennsylvania military bases.
Perry has served in the Army in Iraq and Bosnia. He'll serve on the commission along with Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, state Senators Rich Alloway and John Blake, and
state Rep. Harry Readshaw, along with some other people close to military operations.
"We have to make sure we're prepared when the time comes to defend these things," Perry said.
Perry said the commission doesn't have specific concerns yet, since it hasn't formally met, but he is "very concerned what (the cuts) mean for the midstate."
Two goals: Alloway, R-Franklin, said he thinks the commission will serve on two fronts. One part will be defending against cuts, and another will be to help secure defense contracts.
"We can be the cheerleader and tell that story," Alloway said of Pennsylvania military bases' accomplishments.
Gov. Tom Corbett said he hopes the commission can promote all the positives about the bases, as the military is not allowed to advocate for itself.
There are about 164,000 defense-related jobs in the state. The federal cuts could start as early as January, although Perry said the election could alter that.
Alloway said he understands the military needs to "right-size" its budget sometimes, but worries the cuts will hit Pennsylvania too hard.
'Critical to our econ omy': The 911th Airlift Wing near Pittsburgh already has been in danger of being shut down by the Air Force, although the Defense Department has told the Air Force to hold off for now.
Other major military locations in the state include the Carlisle Barracks, the Letterkenny Army Depot in Franklin County, the Naval support depot in Mechanicsburg and the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Monroe County.
Perry, who was a student at the U.S. Army War College at the Carlisle Barracks, said the military is "critical to our economy."
Perry said he also knows there's been some support in the past decade for moving the Army Heritage Museum in Carlisle down to Washington, D.C.
"Why do such a thing when we have a facility right here?" Perry said.
The commission will have about $100,000 set aside to help pay for travel and other expenses, Alloway said.
-- Reach Andrew Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org