02/18/04 — Perdue states military's importance

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Perdue states military's importance

By Don McLoud
Published in News on February 18, 2004 1:58 PM

Lt. Gov Beverly Perdue and Troy Pate

News-Argus/Kaye Nesbit

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue speaks Tuesday with Troy Pate, co-chairman of the N.C. Advisory Commission on Military Affairs, at the Goldsboro Rotary Club meeting.

Not everyone in North Carolina understands the importance of the state's military bases, so it's up to state leaders and the communities with bases to educate them, says Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Such education is especially important with the U.S. Defense Department planning to close 25 percent of the country's bases, she told the Goldsboro Rotary Club on Monday.

Ms. Perdue, who recently went to Washington to meet with the state's congressional delegation, was also concerned that not all of the delegation understood the economic devastation that would occur should any of the state's bases close.

She reminded the audience that the military ranks third in the state in its economic influence, behind agriculture and tourism. The state's economic development leaders have begun to view it as an industry, she said. The governor has also formed committees to work to protect the state's bases from closing.

She also hopes that someone from North Carolina will be appointed as a voting member on the Base Realignment and Closure commission, which will study which bases should be closed.

Ms. Perdue said that state government officials are working to make sure no N.C. bases are on the BRAC list. She outlined some of those efforts:

*Money spent to improve roads, schools and other public services around bases.

*Deepening the channel at the state port in Wilmington to allow the military to load and unload troops and equipment.

*Working to get a railroad spur to Fort Bragg so it can transport troops and equipment to the state port, rather than having to go to Norfolk, Va.

*Charging in-state tuition for military members' families to attend colleges.

*Waiving any penalties deployed military members may face. They would have time to handle any state matters when they returned, such as renewing a driver's license.

Communities around bases are also working to prevent development that could hinder military operations. The Wayne County commissioners have placed a temporary moratorium on new development near Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to re-evaluate the public's safety.

County Commissioner Andy Anderson asked Ms. Perdue whether the state would provide any financial help to counties undertaking such measures.

She said she would like to see the state come up with a revenue source to pay fair market value for land that would have to be bought to protect bases.

Ms. Perdue said the state leadership's goal is to make North Carolina the "most military friendly state."

The goal, she added, is not to protect the bases only, but to help them grow.

"We have to do our homework, to sell our story in the right way," she said. "It's more than about numbers. It's more than about jobs. It's more than about national defense. It's about soldiers ... communities ... families ... and it's about you and me."