By Rachel La Corte Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday renewed a statewide military alliance in an effort to fend off the economic effects of planned personnel cuts at Joint Base Lewis McChord.
Inslee signed the agreement launching the Washington Military Alliance. More than 20 military and economic development leaders attended the signing.
Inslee noted that as of 2012, the state’s military industry accounted for 136,000 jobs and $15.7 billion in economic activity.
“This isn’t just rhetoric,” Inslee said. “It’s numbers.”
The group’s goals include protecting the state’s military and defense infrastructure, including the thousands of jobs tied to the industry throughout the state. The group will serve as a policy adviser to the governor and other state officials.
“It’s really all about protecting the military assets that we have,” said Rich Hadley, president emeritus of Greater Spokane Inc., one of the groups that signed on to the agreement. “It’s a tough time. And we really have to work together if we’re going to protect the assets that we already have.”
In a letter sent to Army officials last month, Inslee said that cuts at the base would hurt the economy.
The Army is studying the effects of force reductions at bases around the country. The review assumes a loss of about 16,000 soldiers and civilian workers at Lewis-McChord from the base’s peak staffing level in 2011. Lewis-McChord has already been reduced by about 5,400.
Inslee has also challenged an Army economic analysis that found the state would lose just $17.4 million in tax revenue through 2020. He says the figure could be four times that.
The military alliance was first formed in 2012, bringing together then-Gov. Chris Gregoire, members of the state’s congressional delegation, state lawmakers and regional advocacy groups, in response to possible base closures.
The group will meet quarterly, starting later this month.