By Tom MacArthur and Donald Norcross
As freshman members of Congress from different political parties, we are constantly looking for ways to work together for the betterment of South Jersey. We are proud to stand together to secure our national defense and to protect New Jersey's second-largest employer, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, which is responsible for 105,000 jobs in Southern New Jersey. In this political climate, we think it's more important than ever to put aside our differences and work together.
Recently, The Star-Ledger questioned whether opposing military base closures was too focused on local concerns. It's a fair question, but the truth of the matter is that our opposition to the Pentagon's base closure process, known as BRAC, goes far deeper than that.
Supporters of BRAC argue that the Pentagon needs to get rid of excess infrastructure around the country to save money. We agree that given the state of our country's finances, we should be doing everything we can to spend taxpayer dollars efficiently. But as it turns out, BRAC doesn't save money. Worse, it kills jobs when our state needs people working more than ever.
The last round of BRAC cost taxpayers far more than promised, and ten years later, the savings have yet to materialize. The base closures in 2005 were supposed to cost us $21 billion. Now the price tag has skyrocketed to $35 billion. On top of that, the billions we were supposed to save by closing bases around the country are now expected to be 73 percent less than we were told. In fact, the Pentagon isn't expected to even cover its upfront costs from the 2005 BRAC round until 2018 – 13 years later.
Just in case those numbers don't convince you that BRAC is a bad idea, there are a few more reasons we joined forces across party lines to take up this fight. During a time of change around the world, from the rise of the Islamic State to a newly aggressive Russia, we can't be certain what challenges the next few years hold. Imagine if we shuttered military bases around the country and then were faced with a serious threat to our country. While we can hope and pray that we never have to face another 9/11, it would be shortsighted and dangerous to cut installations like JB MDL now. JB MDL is the nation's only tri-service military base, and its East Coast location central to major cities like New York, Washington, and Philadelphia makes it critical for our Armed Forces.
And then there's the effect on local economies. The Star-Ledger Editorial Board acknowledged the devastation a base's closure brings to a community, using the example of Fort Monmouth. They rightly point out that the closure cost three times more than originally planned and that it could take ten years to replace the scientific expertise lost. They hint that redevelopment of Fort Monmouth isn't bringing the economic recovery some promised. The Joint Base injects $7 billion annually into New Jersey's economy, more so than did Fort Monmouth and, as mentioned, is our state's second largest employer. The loss to our region if the Joint Base were closed would be absolutely staggering, and not just to our congressional districts, but to the entire state.
Spending more, saving less, ruining local economies and reducing our nation's military readiness is not the answer. We'll continue to work together – across party lines – to find a better way.
Tom MacArthur is a Republican Congressman representing New Jersey's Third Legislative District. Donald Norcross is a Democratic Congressman representing New Jersey's First Legislative District.