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Governor Brown Responds To Sequestration With Military Advisory Council

April 2, 2013 1:14 p.m.

Governor Brown Responds To Sequestration With Military Advisory Council

California Assemblyman Rocky Chavez is on the Governor's Military Advisory Council. He represents California's 76th assembly district which includes Camp Pendleton. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Colonel.


Mark Cafferty
is President of the San Diego Economic Development Corporation

Related Story: Governor Brown Responds To Sequestration With Military Advisory Council

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ST. JOHN: We are talking about the possibility of military cuts and a new military defense council that has been set up guy the governor. And you can, by the way, call us if you have any comments or questions. 1-888-895-5727. San Diego may be about to go through a cycle it's been through many times before. And each time, it is painful, economically, the downsizing of the military. There were times in the past when our whole economy was so tied to the Navy and military manufacturing that we slumped for sometime after military budget cuts. But San Diego has a more diversified economy now, and also some very strong assets that make it easier to defend its investment in the military. So the news that governor Brown has set up a military advisory council is good news for San Diego. Our guests are one of the new members of this military advisory council, California Assemblyman Rocky Chavez. Thank you for joining us!

CHAVEZ: Well, thank you, Alison, I'm happy to be here to talk about this important issue.

ST. JOHN: And Rocky is now in San Diego, recently elected to the 76th assembly district, that represents parts of San Diego's North County, including Camp Pendleton. He says also a retired marine colonel. We also have Mark Cafferty, president of the San Diego economic development corporation.

CAFFERTY: Thanks very much for having me.

ST. JOHN: Rocky, you served as the secretary for veteran affairs in California. When you look at the big picture, what do you see as being most at risk in the budget cuts still ahead? Is it bases, active duty job? Is it veterans, defense contractors? Where is the biggest threat, do you think?

CHAVEZ: I think the threat is in three different areas. One is going to be the military organizations themselves. In the case of the Marine Corps, we know there's going to be a reduction in force because of the end of the war we've been in for over a decade. And generally the number you use is 1.9 civilians per military person. So if we were to lose a downsize of 10,000 military, then you'd be looking at about 19,000 civilian jobs. The next is facilities.

ST. JOHN: Right.

CHAVEZ: We have a lot of facilities, not just from Southern California, but from North Carolina and other places coming here to complain. 39 all together. And the other one is looking at contractors like General Atomics. Those are the three general areas I think this change could impact upon California.

ST. JOHN: Now we have, I think seven bases here in San Diego. Is there some way you think that we can protect those bases? Are we less vulnerable than we were in previous rounds of, for example, base closures?

CHAVEZ: I think we're less vulnerable. Looking at California when I was secretary traveling around the state, generally in Northern California you'll see more of an influence of the airforce and the army. And in San Diego area, it's more of the impact of the Navy and the Marine Corps. The last go-around, the Navy took some pretty significant hits in the central and Northern California area. In Southern California, where the emphasis shifting to the Pacific right now, and we'll probably see San Diego still be protected.

ST. JOHN: So Mark, from your position on the economic development corporation, paint us a picture of how important the military is to San Diego's economy

CAFFERTY: Well, first of all, I would agree with an awful lot of what Rocky just said, and we are very lucky as a region to have an individual like Rocky with his decorated service and what he's done for the state, and a legislator on this task force and this council. And I think he hit all of the areas that we look at, and in particular I would put specific emphasis the number of small businesses in San Diego that folks do not in any way shape or form think in their minds are related to the military. Those impacts, and the downsizing that affects them. Their customers makes a military or base a key part of what they do. And when you opened up, you talked about that we have gone through this before in San Diego. And at various times, San Diego has prepared for and gone through a brack process quite well. And I think for well over a year led by key folks here in San Diego, we've been trying to make the economic case for why consolidation could and should happen to San Diego but also be ready for where and when we see some closure happening to ensure that we have the business community and the broader community in alignment with the military.

ST. JOHN: So I understand back in February, former defense secretary Leon Panetta said base closing, it just makes sense in the current economic environment. So when we look at the San Diego bases, where do you think -- which bases might be affected if there are cuts coming down the line?

CAFFERTY: I think we're trying to -- what we've tried to do from the get-go is recognize that the secretary has called twice publicly now for a round of realignment and closure and that some brack or brack-like process is inevitable, and make sure we're making the best possible argument we can for all the bases and installations throughout San Diego County. I think what we don't want to do is go into a discussion where we begin to say what we think is vulnerable and don't think is vulnerable but make the case for how each of these installations plays a key role in San Diego, not just for the military who serve there but for the community around them and the broader economy around them. So right now, we spend a lot of time studying every one of the 14 bases, installations, and projects in San Diego so we can put really hard numbers on them to make sure that we're making an educated statement on what that base or installation or project means to the economy while other folks are making the statement for what it means to the defense plan moving forward.

ST. JOHN: Okay. Well I'm going to throw out a possible scenario, which is MCRD, the Marine Corps recruit depot next to the airfield. And Rocky, there are two of these in the country, I believe. What kind of arguments would we put forth to say, look, we should keep this?

CHAVEZ: I think it's the same argument in the past that it's a historical movement, that we have two training areas, one on the west coast and east coast. But I think what's going to change here a lot is that back in the 1980s, 1990s, you had services that were pretty much famous in the protection of their own efforts, the Pentagon wars. But we now are joint forces, airforce, army, marines all training together and support each other on the training areas. And if you look at the committee that the government put together, you actually have seven members of the army and airforce, seven from the Navy and marines, with four politicians in education and business members filling out the group. So I'm hopeful we're going to see what Mark talked about, mutually suspecting each other, but also recognizing the unique training abilities here in California.

ST. JOHN: The last time we lost a base was the NTK which has become a housing development. Do you think there might be some silver linings if bases were retired from San Diego?

CAFFERTY: No, I think that's a process where -- over the past year, really led by the San Diego military advisory council here in San Diego, I think we've made a huge effort to bring the business community and the military leadership and retired military leadership closer than ever before. So if those discusses need to happen somewhere down the line, they happen in a more collaborative and more informed fashion than they have in the past. I think the outcome of something like the closure of NTC and what has become over a long period of time now liberty station which is in fact the neighborhood they live in, what we want to avoid are any discussions is that start to begin, well, could we do without something because folks in the community might eye it as something that could be helpful in another way? I think as Rocky stated upfront, our entire emphasis for the military is shifting toward the Pacific. That bodes quite well for San Diego. The detail in that plan is very centered to the Navy and the Marine Corps, come is important for San Diego. And I think what people forget is that the geography of San Diego and everything around us is such an important training place in so many different ways for the military that I think what we have to do is go into this standing up all the arguments for why that's critical, and then making sure if we are in jeopardy of losing something, we know about it in advance, we think critically how to save it.

ST. JOHN: Future wars are likely to be less about boots on the ground and more about the kind of technology that San Diego has got a very powerful hand it.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

ST. JOHN: Things like drones. We had a story on this morning about the power of this particular sector. But do you have any concerns about the fact that people are producing drones in their garages now, and this highly sophisticated and extensive technology could be threatened in the future by some of these more civilian efforts?

CAFFERTY: You know, I don't think so. I think there is -- it's absolutely something people are talking about. And what people forget is unmanned systems are used for so much more than what we just use them in warfare right now.

ST. JOHN: True.

CAFFERTY: When we fight fires in this region, we're going to want the best possible unmanned systems developed in this region. Same thing if people are lost at sea or in the mountains. Unmanned systems are going to be such a critical part of emergency efforts in the future. And San Diego has the ability to be a real focal point and center for excellence in the development of that technology. And I think the past story in San Diego that bodes quite well for this particular initiative is so many great breakthroughs in science or technology in San Diego have spun out to become great companies, employed lots of people and changed lives, have started the funding initially or initiatives that were spear headed by the military. And we'll try to make the case to Washington that that density of technology and infrastructure around the military means as new opportunities that arise that could be taken into the civilian sector and into the community, that we have the businesses and the entrepreneurs here locally that can do that just as they've done in the past.

ST. JOHN: Would you say in fact this connection between the civilian sector and the military sector when it comes to research is kind of getting more and more blurred?

CAFFERTY: It is. And I believe it's actually -- again, San Diego is a place where people may not understand how critically the military and technology and biotechnology and life sciences have worked in the past. When you talk about the things we have to defend and not lose, people may not attribute the spar that spay war does that has spun out into the technology center.

CHAVEZ: And actually there's a history of that whole relation going on. If you look at the development of the Internet, that was in the Department of Defense. You look at helicopters that are now used in common practice, came from the military. If you look at even the things that came out of World War II, as far as the nuclear program, came out of the military. So there's a history of that. And I was looking at UAVs the other day, I was watching a Star Trek show, and they actually had UAVs. So this is just kind of a movement of technology, and the military is closely aligned with the technology. And that's why there's an advantage to maintain our military with them. I don't think we're ever going to replace the boots on the ground. I would probably challenge that. There are technologies coming in, but the military is going to require at some point a soldier of marine woman or man to be on a hill to claim that land.

ST. JOHN: Right, and as a former marine, you're well-positioned to say that. But it is true that the Marine Corps is cutting down to 102,000 from 2002. So there are some cuts in the works, but you don't foresee that being even bigger cuts in the near future?

CHAVEZ: No, I think when I originally joined the Marine Corps at the end of the Vietnam war timeframe, we went from 260 to 170,000. And the army did the same thing. But they climbed back up as they needed us. You still need a core element of the military that understands the technology, how we're going to deploy forces, so we can always ramp ourselves up when we need to do that. So there's a relationship between technology and the military.

ST. JOHN: I just wanted to ask you quickly about aircraft carriers. There's some thought that perhaps they're becoming like sitting ducks, and we've got these new fast ship, couldn't that threaten the three aircraft carriers that are based here in San Diego? And each bring quite a bit of economic benefit.

CHAVEZ: Well, the aircraft carriers, when you see them, it's not just the ship that you see out there on the war. There's a whole element of submarines below that protecting it. Above it, there's another series of aircraft to protect it, and even now with the satellites, that ship that you see out there is supported by a lot more than just the ship itself.

ST. JOHN: Just to finish off here, what can this new military council actually do that the governor has set up? I know you're not actually sitting on it, but what would you like to see them do?

CAFFERTY: We've worked very closely with the folks who have been thinking this through and setting up on behalf of the governor in Sacramento. And I think they've done an excellent job. Our first hope was to make sure that San Diego as a region was very well represented on there. And I think with retired admiral Jim Johnson with someone like Rocky Chavez, and also Mary Lyons from USD representing higher education, I think that combined with other folks who have done their military training time here in San Diego gives us great reason to feel that we're well represented when we know that 70% of the state's military assets are in fact represent leader in San Diego. But this is a very challenging state to align around congressional issues. We are so large, sometimes folks refer to us as the five states of California. When you look at us comparatively, are getting our delegation on the same page with different initiatives is challenging. The leadership the governor is showing in pulling this council together is to ensure that within the state we're having the dialogue on what's critical and important and how that delegation and our governor can speak with one voice. And I think this council gives them a very strong base of individuals who will help advise them on that, and I think that bodes well for us in the future brack process.

ST. JOHN: So Rocky, you're one of the members of the council. Thank you so much for joining us.

CHAVEZ: Well, thank you very much. And Mark laid out a really good closing there on what San Diego is positioned well. Also Anthony Jackson is a member of the team who used to be the base commander in Camp Pendleton.

CAFFERTY: That's right.

ST. JOHN: Good, thank you. Thanks so much again. And Mark Cafferty, the president of San Diego's economic development corporation. Thank you, Mark.

CAFFERTY: Thank you so much.