By: Matt Craig, Director of Crane Community Support for Radius Indiana
Indiana’s well-established military presence includes commands at Naval Support Activity Crane, the Grissom Air Reserve Base, and a distinguished state national guard with six critical assets. These commands support 14,000 soldiers and airmen, who are located in 52 counties across the state. The Base Realignment & Closure (BRAC) process was implemented in 1988, and the Department of Defense (DoD) repeatedly reduced its investment in Indiana’s military assets as part of that process.
The Pentagon dollars that increased over the last four years could soon be harder to obtain. Many politicians are calling for a return of fiscal conservatism, and the Treasury will feel the full impact of COVID-19, both the stimulus and its cuts to paychecks and income taxes soon.
In light of cuts to the Pentagon, potentially 10 percent or more in future years, defense communities should plan for various scenarios. Impacts from a defense budget reduction could include:
- Any military program not in existence prior to the previous administration will be subject to close review and re-justification. The number of aircraft to be purchased will be reduced, lot buys pushed out, recapitalization delayed, satellite constellations deferred, and ship keel-laying slowed because of budgetary pressure and/or shifts in defense prioritization.
- State-of-the-art technology pursuits like hypersonic weapons, autonomous combat vehicles, and artificial intelligence will be hampered. Legacy programs will be retired, while new acquisitions with lesser effect on service requirements will be canceled.
- When the Pentagon sees these types of budget cuts, military leaders typically ask for another round of the BRAC, a nonpartisan process that shutters military bases and consolidates missions to save money and increase military value. The last time the Pentagon closed bases was 2005, and other states came out as winners.
The state must make a significant effort to avoid additional significant losses of our military assets. In 2019, the Indiana State Legislature established the Indiana Defense Task Force to accomplish the following tasks for Indiana’s military bases:
- Identify the public infrastructure and other community support necessary to improve mission efficiencies and for development and expansion;
- Identify existing and potential impacts of encroachment;
- Identify potential state and local government actions that can minimize the impacts of encroachment and enhance the long-term potential; and
- Identify opportunities for collaboration among the state, including the military department of the state, political subdivisions, military contractors; and academic institutions to maintain and expand the missions.
This move by our legislatures recognized changes that could occur in the future defense landscape. We applaud the Indiana State legislature for recognizing that the coalition that fights for Indiana’s military assets must grow, and grow stronger.