The budget deal at the end of 2013 reduced the bite sequestration will take out of the military budget. But about $30 billion will still be coming out of Pentagon spending for 2014, and more the next year, as the nation begins its postwar military downsizing.
Communities across the country will be affected. For the most part we donâ€™t know which ones. But economic development professionals agree on one thing: getting ahead of the curve is critical to a successful economic strategy.
Is as much as 2-3% of your cityâ€™s economy dependent on military contracts? Then you are eligible to get federal help to prepare an adjustment strategy.
Accessing these funds doesnâ€™t mean youâ€™re unconcerned about your existing jobs base. It just means youâ€™re doing what you can to have a Plan B in place if that base takes a hit.
New Federal â€śPlan Bâ€ť money available
The Office of Economic Adjustment in the Pentagon (oea.gov) has one mission: to help communities affected by military downsizings, either from base closings or military industry contract losses, with transition planning grants and technical assistance (see program guidelines at 1 and 2 and below).
The Obama administration is ramping up and fast tracking this assistance.
Who is eligible?
Military-dependent communities, regions and states. Dependency has a low thresholdâ€”only about 2-3% of a communityâ€™s workforce need be employed in the military industry to qualify.
How does the process work?
Mayors and other public officials take the lead in securing these funds and then involving economic development professionals and community, worker and business stakeholders in planning an economic transition.
Whereas before OEA couldnâ€™t offer assistance until a contract cancellation had been announced, those rules have changed. Now OEA supports advance planningâ€”before the job losses hit.
In addition to supporting transition planningâ€”financially and with hands-on technical assistanceâ€”OEA will help connect communities to support from other federal agencies to implement the economic transition plans they construct using OEA planning funds.
Capitalizing on this challenge and opportunity
Adjusting to the military downsizing will be a challenge for communities across the country. State and community leaders need to seize the chance to turn this challenge into the proverbial opportunity: to help their communities chart a path to new economic activity not dependent on wartime levels of military spending.
OEA Defense Industry Adjustment program guidelines at:
Thanks to: Mayors for Peace, the Institute for Policy Studies and the New Priorities Network.