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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Treasurer: State can strengthen military ties

  • Less than two months after the U.S. Army announced its plans to cut 1,100 positions on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel announced his plan to help strengthen Missouri's relationship with the military while supporting its bases cost effectively.
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  • Less than two months after the U.S. Army announced its plans to cut 1,100 positions on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel announced his plan to help strengthen Missouri's relationship with the military while supporting its bases cost effectively.
    The treasurer developed 16 recommendations during the past couple of months after Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Zweifel to oversee a newly formed military partnership that is aimed at keeping and enhancing military bases, force strength and federal defense spending in Missouri.
    In January, Nixon came to St. Robert to announce the creation of the Missouri Military Partnership.
    Zweifel said he looked for the places where state actions could have the greatest impact after meetings with Missouri’s congressional delegation, Pentagon officials, state leaders, base leadership and community groups. Zweifel has visited the Fort Leonard Wood area multiple times since leading the partnership to gather information.
    "We wanted to focus on ways that the state can compete long-term, regardless of the environment. So regardless of what military spending is, regardless of what weapon systems are in place, that Missouri has the infrastructure to compete," Zweifel said.
    Officials estimate the Missouri National Guard, Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood support about 65,000 direct and indirect jobs. All defense contracts, installations and grants lead to 275,000 direct and indirect jobs and fuel $40 billion in economic activity for Missouri.
    Nixon said that Fort Leonard Wood provides a total of 36,000 direct and indirect jobs for the state and has a $2 billion per year impact on the state.
    President Barack Obama's administration last month released a proposed Department of Defense (DOD) budget with $496 billion of discretionary spending.
    The plan includes reducing the size of the Army and Marine Corps, removing helicopters and equipment from the National Guard and moving to retire the Air Force's A-10 "Warthog."
    Strengthen military-community partnerships
    Zweifel's recommendations include the creation of a private not-for-profit entity called the Missouri Military Foundation that would coordinate efforts to support existing military installations and boost defense spending.
    It could have a professional staff and be led by a board of directors of business leaders, members of community organizations near installations and retired military members.
    In Zweifel's report, he commends the Fort Leonard Wood community for already creating a DOD-supported organization called Sustainable Ozarks Partnership (SOP) and a companion organization, the Leonard Wood Institute. The SOP is comprised of community leaders and policy makers who help support the installation and surrounding community.
    “These formalized organizations provide military leaders and elected officials a structured community support group to interact with and help support the installation and military families,” Zweifel said. “These organizations also allow for quicker discovery periods to identify needed initiatives, helping them to learn what a community can best do to support the installation.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The treasurer also suggests a compact that could allow military members to apply their service time toward completing labor apprenticeships and helping to protect military families' finances. Zweifel said community colleges have agreed to assist with developing a financial literacy program.
    “Missouri should work with this well-established, community-focused network of schools to develop a financial literacy program to support Missouri service members,” he said.
    Support Gen. Leonard Wood Hospital
    Another recommendation he included was establishing a task force to focus on the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, the second oldest hospital in the Army and the only in-patient, emergency-room equipped facility in Pulaski County.
    “Given the vital services the hospital provides to both the installation and the surrounding community, it is imperative that the facility is well supported,” he said. “Additionally, the absence of excess military construction dollars in the current budgetary environment creates a scenario where deferred maintenance could build up.
    Zweifel said that the state should consider the creation of a task force to help meet a possible financial need and health care gap.
    “This task force, which could augment the efforts already underway by SOP and the Leonard Wood Institute, should be comprised of community leaders, state officials and federal delegation representation,” he said. “The purpose of the task force should be to study possible opportunities for public-private partnerships to help the Army achieve its goal of having a cost efficient and fully utilized hospital and outpatient center.”
    Develop Missouri military brand, website
    Zweifel also recommended to build Missouri's Military Brand by creating an online Missouri Military Portal and continuing to work to employ veterans.
    The online portal would includes critical information for policy makers planning for the future and highlight the key role DOD investments play in Missouri’s economy.
    A primary goal of the information portal would include services that help employ and educate military members and veterans.
    “Missourians should be proud of our long history of supporting the military,” Zweifel said. “As the budgetary environment changes in Washington, D.C., we must continue to work with our federal partners and military leaders to ensure policy makers are aware of the steps we are taking as a state to continue this enduring legacy.”
    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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