01/28/12 — The right move: BRAC rumor no need to panic, but complacency not good either

View Archive

The right move: BRAC rumor no need to panic, but complacency not good either

Anyone who thinks that losing Seymour Johnson Air Force Base would be a good thing for Goldsboro or Wayne County is living in an alternate reality -- especially in this day and age of an uncertain economy and an even more precarious employment market.

So, for those in the know, of course, someone utters the words "base, realignment and closure" and that could prompt more than a little anxiety for those who live, work or run businesses here.

There is no reason for panic. There has been some good work done in this community for years to make the conditions right for keeping Seymour Johnson in Wayne County. And the base/community relations reputation Wayne County has across the Air Force is a pretty big positive, too.

There are only a handful of people to thank for creating that foundation and for laying the groundwork that has made today's relationship possible -- and they have set a course that should keep this base right here, if conditions continue and the work continues to be done.

And there is every reason to be confident that city, county and Military Affairs Committee leadership and members get that this is not something to blow off or to leave to chance, and that they are determined to make sure all the i's are dotted and the t's crossed.

But that said, there is a reason to be vigilant, too -- and to be aware of the downsides, the challenges and the opportunities when it comes to making sure Seymour Johnson AFB gets a pass when BRAC comes around.

Officials talk all the time about public partnerships and about how this entire community and each government and other public agency should join forces to make Wayne County stronger, to talk about the problems it faces, and to devise solutions based on those discussions.

Now, whether it always happens -- that's another story.

The trick now is not to waste time or to sit on our laurels, assuming that the base will not make the BRAC list. Money should be invested, a plan concocted and the hard work done to make sure the bases are covered.

And now is not such a bad time to talk about how to overcome the objections that might be factors if Seymour Johnson Air Force Base has to weather this military budget slicing.

Some circumstances cannot be controlled. Local and state officials do not make military policy, devise strategy or determine where the money will go.

And no matter how much the Air Force might like Wayne County and SJAFB, if Congress chops its budget and sends out new directives for what the priorities will be, then there is little Air Force officials can do other than make the cuts and realign resources.

But there are things we can do right now.

We can start real discussions about the challenges this community faces. Maybe it is time to talk seriously again about Goldsboro High School and what we need to do to improve educational offerings all over Wayne County. Maybe we need to talk about more money, rewarding good teachers and better programs. Maybe infrastructure is an area that we need to examine as well as the marketing strategies we have for attracting and keeping investment in this area so there is more to offer military families (and the rest of us).

Maybe it is a time for a tuneup, a refocus and a plan for lobbying and asking for input from those who have led the community to a successful relationship with the military leadership in the past.

The next election in North Carolina is critical. The last thing this state needs is a governor who does not support or understand the importance of the military presence in the state or who is not focused on the efforts to keep it intact. We need to choose carefully -- after asking the right questions. There is no time for a learning curve or the possibility of distraction. We need someone who understands numbers, growth, development and who is professional enough to lead this state forward. Keep that in mind as you review the gubernatorial wannabes over the next few weeks.

And then there are our leaders in Washington. They need to be held accountable, too, especially the ones who do not always seem to get that they are there to represent the will of the people, not the call of their party.

Keeping the pressure on them couldn't hurt either.

There is an old saying: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

That is exactly the philosophy this community needs to have about BRAC, whether it is in 2013 or 2015 or next week.

That is how you stay a winner.

Published in Editorials on January 28, 2012 11:04 PM