Report in the Arizona Daily Star indicates nearly 92 percent of residents polled support DM
Tucson leaders tout strong support for Davis-Monthan, Fort Huachuca, 162nd Fighter Wing
A group of civic and business leaders launched a new effort Wednesday to boost support for Southern Arizona’s military installations, with survey results showing strong community backing of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and other bases in the region.
In the survey, released Wednesday by the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance, nearly 92 percent of residents polled said they support the presence of such bases very strongly, strongly or moderately, with nearly 49 percent expressing very strong support.
The survey — which was done partly to counter Pentagon doubts about community support here — also showed noisier aircraft wouldn’t alter most residents’ support of D-M.The local defense support group — which in addition to community and civic leaders includes business organizations and military-support groups such as the DM50 — used the survey findings to launch its new “Mission Strong” awareness program in an event at the UNS Energy Corp. headquarters.
The Southern Arizona Defense Alliance also unveiled a new website, www.missionstrongaz.org, where people can join up to participate in the effort.
Ron Shoopman, a retired Air Force brigadier general and president of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, said the survey findings and the Mission Strong initiative will be used both to raise awareness among the public and to reassure Pentagon officials that the Southern Arizona community welcomes and values the region’s bases.
Shoopman said the military installations — besides D-M including Fort Huachuca, the Air National Guard 162nd Fighter Wing and the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma — support about 62,000 jobs and pump $5.4 billion annually into the region’s economy. Arizona ranks seventh among the states in military spending, he added.
“The importance, the critical nature of our military presence, can’t be overstated,” Shoopman told a crowd of more than 100 local officials and supporters at Wednesday’s event.
The survey comes as the Pentagon is looking to ax one of D-M’s primary missions by eliminating the A-10 Thunderbolt II close- air-support jet for budget savings, and controversy grows over the deployment of the nation’s next-generation fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II.
“The budget cuts facing our nation, particularly our military and sequestration, are by many estimates draconian,” said Shoopman, former commander of the 162nd Fighter Wing. “That means only the best bases, the ones that are the most efficient, the ones that are the most effective, the ones that are most supported by their communities, will survive these cuts.”
Shoopman said community support, including local education and partnerships, is a key factor in the Pentagon’s Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) process of selecting bases for closure, which is expected to start up again in 2017.
Shoopman said Mission Strong “is a long-term effort; it’s not a one-and-done.”
“The challenge is to raise our voices to say we support the men and women of our installations, the missions they perform, and we support the bases themselves,” he said.
A leader of the DM50, a group of more than 100 civic and business leaders supporting Davis-Monthan and its mission, said the survey was initiated after group leaders visited the Pentagon last July and found a perception that local support for the military was mixed at best.
“They believed Tucson was a divided community, and we came back to change that perception,” DM50 President Mike Grassinger said.
Continue reading Arizona Daily Star article by David Wichner