By Steve Williamson
Our community must rally around our military who diligently serve in South Florida, right in our backyard.
It has been 12 years since the last U.S. military base was closed in the United States. Base realignment and closure (BRAC) is the Pentagon’s most expedient tool to generate significant savings. The military continually presses Congress for a new set of base closures, targeting 2021 for the next round. Are we in danger of BRAC here in South Florida, where we have 14 military installations and 22 military commands, along with approximately 25,000 active and reserve service-members, civilians and their family-members? That’s a discussion we will leave to the politicians right now, but in the meantime, whether in the face of BRAC or not, our community must rally around our military forces, including our proud Coast Guard, who serve our nation so diligently right here in our backyard.
The South Florida Progress Foundation, the charitable arm of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) was recently awarded a Florida Defense Support Task Force grant to form the South Florida Defense Alliance whose mission is to unite, grow, champion and represent our local defense community. The South Florida Defense Alliance will leverage the strong relationships and the successes that the GMCC’s Military Affairs Committee and the Miami-Dade County’s Military Affairs Board have achieved as being long-standing advocates for military presence, readiness, capability and growth in South Florida. Most importantly, it will work in concert with the many organizations throughout the county already supporting our precious military installations, commands, service-members and their families.
By working with local, state and federal organizations and representatives, the defense alliance is designed to make South Florida an even more trusted and defense-friendly partner, advocating solutions of mutual benefit for the community, the military, the state and our nation. The South Florida Defense Alliance will:
• Provide a strong local voice to tell the story of Florida’s great military communities.
• Represent the largest metropolitan area in the state and coalesce the voice and support of our 6.2 million residents and the legislators that serve South Florida.
• Encourage local governments and civic organizations to promote, preserve, and enhance the U.S. Southern Command, Homestead Air Reserve Base and our many U.S. Coast Guard elements. This will benefit our region by having one of the three military combatant commands in the state, a disperse and capable state-wide U.S. Air Force presence, and the largest U.S. Coast Guard District in the nation.
• Work closely with The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County, private industry and academic institutions to grow the defense-related regional spending of $4.3 billion that is producing an economic impact of $12.3 billion and is currently resulting in 130,000 jobs.
This is our military and our treasured asset in South Florida. The South Florida Defense Alliance will lead a strong public-private coalition designed to enhance the military’s capabilities and its installations; coalesce community support; expand local defense-related industries; and continuously improve the
quality of life for our service-members and their families. South Florida is our home and it is their home. Let’s do this together.
Steve Williamson is a retired US Army colonel serving as chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee. He is also managing principal of BEST Solutions Consulting Group and can be reached at [email protected]