Last updated: February 17. 2013 1:31AM - 109 Views

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HARRISBURG ‚?? Pennsylvania is joining the move by states to defend their military installations from possible Defense Department cutbacks after Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday signed an order setting up a commission to advocate for the state‚??s bases.
Corbett appointed Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley to lead it. Other members will include State Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald.
The commission‚??s creation comes a year after Congress passed legislation that requires nearly $500 billion in defense cuts over 10 years beginning on Jan. 2.
‚??I think Pennsylvania needs to be taking a look at the issues themselves and we need to be well represented,‚?Ě Corbett said at a news conference at the 28th Division Infantry headquarters in Harrisburg.
Part of the commission‚??s focus will be to add to the tasks carried out by the state‚??s installations by marketing geographical value or operational efficiency, Corbett and the lawmakers said. One of the installations that the commission will fight hard to protect is the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Monroe County, Northeast Pennsylvania‚??s largest employer with 5,500 workers.
‚??The wide-ranging impact and value of Tobyhanna Army Depot to Northeastern Pennsylvania and to our regional economy is immeasurable,‚?Ě Blake said. ‚??By creating this new commission, we are reaffirming our commitment to Tobyhanna and to all other military installations throughout the commonwealth and ensuring that all of these installations are properly positioned to deal with future federal defense cuts.‚?Ě
In addition to Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania‚??s major military installations include the Carlisle Barracks where the U.S. Army War College is housed, Letterkenny Army Depot in southcentral Pennsylvania, the 911th Airlift Wing in suburban Pittsburgh and a Naval support depot in suburban Harrisburg.
‚??The depots have just spent the last 10, 11 years really saving the military‚??s bacon,‚?Ě said Gen. Wesley Craig, who leads the Pennsylvania National Guard.
The Tobyhanna depot, for example, performs electrical work that no other depot can do, Craig said.
‚??I would be really concerned as a professional military officer to close any one of those several depots we have in the state,‚?Ě he said.
In two previous rounds of base closures, Pennsylvania lost the Philadelphia Navy shipyard and the Willow Grove Naval Air Station Base in suburban Philadelphia.
According to the executive order, the commission will assist the governor by providing recommendations and input to enhance the military value of all installations, organizations and defense related regions located within the commonwealth; it will establish a strong liaison with Pennsylvania‚??s Congressional delegation; and it will provide quarterly reports on its activities to the governor. The commission will also assist in expanding economic development opportunities for defense industry business concerns that maintain a presence in Pennsylvania.
Blake noted that there are there are nearly 80,000 Pennsylvanians currently employed in defense-related jobs at the bases and facilities throughout the commonwealth.
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