We discuss Executive Order 124, which seeks to improve relations between North Carolina agencies and local military installations.
On August 17 Governor Beverly Perdue signed Executive Order 124, to promote stronger communication between state agencies, community leaders, and military officials. Even though military officials and state officials say that more awareness of military activity is vital to North Carolina’s economy, the state has a long history of communication with its military installations. Stephen O’Connell has more.
Effective immediately, Executive Order 124 mandates that all cabinet agencies in North Carolina appoint a military liaison officer. The officer will maintain a strong awareness of military issues and opportunities in the state. North Carolina’s military is the second largest source of revenue for North Carolina, worth 23 billion dollars, and employing directly or indirectly 416,000 people.
Military Affairs Advisor to the Governor, Col. John Nicholson says the Order is a reinforcement of responsibilities that already exist.
“ It’s an additional duty, and just so they have a greater situational awareness of what’s going on within the military community, and to help their respective departments, and to give me a call, and to give me a heads up, when someone in their department, or someone interested in doing business in North Carolina needs an answer on something that’s related to the military.”
There are state agencies that already work with the military, as well as many local leaders that keep in contact with base officials in their community. Regional East Director of Government and External Relations for Marine Corp Installations East, Paul Friday says, one of the initiatives helping to produce the guidelines for the Executive Order grew from the communication between the military and leaders on the state and local level.
“ I believe there’s a group called the North Carolina Working Land’s Group that will have the charge of implementing the Executive Order 124.”
The North Carolina Working Lands Group, established in 2009 keeps intact lands that are known to have natural resources, and which can be beneficial to private landowners and for military training purposes.
Although the bill’s focus is the preservation of land compatible to military activity and training, the bill designates that all cabinet agencies communicate with the Advisory Commission on Military Affairs, the Commander’s Council, and other state-military partnerships. The Advisory Commission on Military Affairs was created in 2001 at the General Assembly, and is made up of local and state agency representatives, base officials, and appointed local leaders. The commission meets to help the military strengthen its place in the state’s economy. Col. Nicholson is the chief administrator of the advisory commission, and says that their last meeting was largely a discussion of the school system’s involvement with the military.
“ So we brought in and invited the school commissioners from various military communities to come tell us what they’re issues were and was there anything we could do and was there anything we could do to take up, to try to help them out in the future.”
The Department of Public Instruction’s current military advisor is program coordinator of NC Troops to Teachers. John Taggart helps recruit and train people who are leaving military duty make the transition into teaching. Although Taggart deals directly with the military he says communication with most military leaders is limited.
“ There’s a Fort Bragg Educator’s meeting they have was every six months but they’ve changed it to an annual meeting now too. In that regard I’m actually in a room with superintendents from local school systems that surrounded Fort Bragg, and they have the Garrison Commander there, and they talk about the educational issues that are affecting their community there.”
Taggart also sits on the Military Interstate Compact Council, which implements the Interstate Compact on Education for Military Children. The compact eases the transition military children encounter when parents are deployed or transferred from state to state.
Friday says the success of initiatives, such as the Interstate Compact, is reliant on the cooperation and knowledge of all parts of the government.
“ The dialogue and the partnership that goes on really takes place everywhere from Federal, state, multistate, regions within a state, and then down to the county, local level that’s a mouth full but you really have to be engaged at all levels because depending on the issue or the opportunity you need to work it sometimes at all of those levels.”
In May of 2012 the group was charged with helping the governor implement the Land Compatibility Task Force. The group’s job is to provide incentives for preservation of military compatible land, to review current local planning and zoning ordinances, and to solve basic encroachment problems, among other things. Director of Military Affairs and Strategic Planning at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Chris Riso, helped establish The Working Lands Group.
“ the focus on that again is restricting or at least, not restricting, but trying to slow the amount of land loss of related and natural resources in the state of North Carolina, and most importantly to try to maintain lands that are compatible with the militaries operational missions especially Down East.”
Riso, and the Working Lands Group, will be involved in the implementation of the Executive Order. He says the order will improve communication between military and both state and local agencies.
“ I go back to the fact that we are dealing with the second largest economic engine we got in the state. There needs to be a better awareness that in terms of the military is almost like the extra cities and extra corporate entities we have in North Carolina, and we have to recognize and include that and include that in terms of our decision making.”
Also included in the bill is the requirement for cabinet agencies to confirm that local officials be well trained in military base requirements. The city of Havelock is home to Marine Corp Air Station Cherry Point. Director for Planning and Inspections, Scott Chase, says in his six years as Director his communication with the military has been a day to day occurrence.
“ We discuss land use issues on a regular basis, If a development occurs anywhere in town, whether it’s in the air installation compatible use zone or in a noise overlay, anywhere in the city, anything associated with land use of significant change like a special use permit, a conditional use permit, a subdivision, a rezoning, or a text amendment that may impact land use decisions in town we collaborate with Cherry Point.”
The order states that low altitude flying can be adversely affected by a city’s development, and local planning departments need to be aware, and comply with military needs. Local agencies also need to be aware of the time constraints of military activity and training when economic planning is underway.
To deal with some of these issues the military created Cherry Point’s Air Installations Compatible Use Zones program to work with state and local leaders to make their airfields safe from development on adjacent properties.
Another department involved in land preservation, and the Working Lands Group, is the Department of Agriculture. Environmental Manager for the Department of Agriculture and Manager of the Agriculture Farm Development and Preservation Trust Fund, Dewitt Hardee.
“ We work to do Preservation easements or conservation easements whether their term or perpetual easements on different lands whether its forestry, whether they are crop land, or horticulture lands that will allow the continuance of production agriculture on those lands, while at the same time finding compatible uses for the military.”
As Director of Government and External Relations for Marine Corp Installations East Paul Friday said, the relationship between state and military officials encompasses all levels of government. One of the most significant examples of this is the Fort Bragg Regional Alliance. In 2005 The Base Realignment and Enclosure caused a lot of changes in base infrastructure throughout the country. Starting in 2005 Fort Bragg, and Pope Air Force Base, which in 2011 became part of Fort Bragg, began preparing for the transition of Army Reserves and Army Forces from Fort McPherson in Georgia to their Base. On August 1st 2011 Fort Bragg celebrated the opening of the Army’s new headquarters and welcomed over 1550 new Army and civilian employees. With further threats of sequestration, it is now critical for military installations to demonstrate their importance to the state and the communities they are a part of. Stephen O’Connell Public Radio East.