By CHRIS BLANK
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- State Treasurer Clint Zweifel said Tuesday that Missouri can strengthen military ties by identifying ways to improve quality of life for service members, finding cost-effective ways to support bases and making sure facilities are in a position to succeed.
The treasurer developed 16 recommendations during the past couple of months after Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Zweifel to oversee a newly formed military partnership that is aimed at keeping and enhancing military bases, force strength and federal defense spending in Missouri. Zweifel said he looked for the places where state actions could have the greatest impact.
"We wanted to focus on ways that the state can compete long term, regardless of the environment. So regardless of what military spending is, regardless of what weapon systems are in place, that Missouri has the infrastructure to compete," Zweifel said.
Officials estimate the Missouri National Guard, Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood support about 65,000 direct and indirect jobs. All defense contracts, installations and grants lead to 275,000 direct and indirect jobs and fuel $40 billion in economic activity for Missouri.
President Barack Obama's administration last month released a proposed Department of Defense budget with $496 billion of discretionary spending. The plan includes reducing the size of the Army and Marine Corps, removing helicopters and equipment from the National Guard and moving to retire the Air Force's A-10 "Warthog."
Zweifel's recommendations include the creation of a private not-for-profit entity called the Missouri Military Foundation that would coordinate efforts to support existing military instillations and boost defense spending. It could have a professional staff and be led by a board of directors of business leaders, members of community organizations near installations and retired military members.
The treasurer also suggests a compact that could allow military members to apply their service time toward completing labor apprenticeships and helping to protect military families' finances. Zweifel said community colleges have agreed to assist with developing a financial literacy program.
Other recommendations include creating a military affairs adviser to the Missouri governor, establishing a task force to focus on the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital and working on plans for the Missouri River Levee System that protects Rosecrans Air National Guard Base in St. Joseph.
Zweifel's recommendations: http://www.treasurer.mo.gov/pdf/MissouriMilitaryPartnershipReportFinal.pdf