New Calif. council to promote defense industry

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California Governor Jerry Brown

California Governor Jerry Brown (AP Photo)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown launched a major push Thursday to bolster California’s military installations and defense industries amid federal cutbacks by establishing a council of retired generals and admirals to promote the state.

The 18-member Governor’s Military Council will be led by former congresswoman and Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher. It will include former high-ranking military leaders from different branches, along with state lawmakers and business leaders, Brown’s office announced.

“California plays a crucial role in our nation’s defense, and military bases and activities are vital to our state’s economy,” Brown said in a statement. “As federal priorities shift to cyber security and new military technology, this council will work to expand defense-industry jobs and investment in California.”

California is home to 29 federal military installations. The Pentagon directly employs more than 236,000 people in the state.

Brown said the council will work to protect that presence and leverage changes in the Obama administration’s military strategy to secure California’s position as a leading force for the military and its related businesses.

Brown did not elaborate on what those changes would be or provide details on exactly how the council would protect California from future Pentagon budget cuts.

The council does not expect to have a major impact on automatic federal spending cuts that went into effect March 1, said council spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Keegan of the California National Guard.

But it could impact Washington decisions beyond that, Keegan said, pointing out that the Pentagon is shifting its focus from the Middle East to the Pacific Rim with the winding down of the war in Afghanistan.

California’s location makes it a prime spot in the new military strategy, and Tauscher said in a statement that the council will send a unified message to Washington that highlights the value of its bases.

The council will meet once a year and draft recommendations to Brown and the state Legislature.

The automatic federal spending cuts are expected to touch a vast range of government services. Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have painted a dire picture of construction projects on hold, limits on patrols by aircraft carriers, and the layoffs of thousands of temporary and contract employees with the Defense Department.

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