DoD and governors’ association team up to help states show off their strengths for military investment

The Defense Department and the National Governors Association are teaming up to find ways to strengthen the defense industrial base while also beefing up economic benefits for states and territories.

The NGA’s Center for Best Practices is working with DoD’s Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) to help states make themselves more attractive to the Pentagon and defense companies by developing strategic, evidence-based action plans.

The two-year program stems from a 2018 study by OEA, which looks at DoD contract obligations and payroll spending in each state. It totaled $500 billion, averaging more than $1,500 per capita.

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“Governors said, ‘This is great. We love this data. But now, how do we put this into action? What do we do with this? And how can we better support our defense communities and supply chains?’” Amanda Winters, program director at NGA told Federal News Network. “We were able to jump in with OEA and create that could focus on the ways in which governors can utilize data and resources to strengthen the state and federal connection as we work together to support defense communities and installation.”

The program will engage state policymakers and explore policy areas to better connect and align support between the state and DoD, basically the states will sell their strengths.

“North Dakota, they rank 44th in overall defense spending, but they were still able to do some innovative work in order to make some great state and federal connections that meet with the defense priority but also strengthen regional economies,” Winters said. “That’s focused around the Grand Forks Air Force Base, and it’s around unmanned aircraft. There was really a concerted connection between the regional economy around supply chain for unmanned aircraft and with educational opportunities that are very unique through the university system there in the state. It provided incentives and support and communication and alignment in order to better serve a defense priority while really staking out a claim for a region that didn’t have huge numbers as far as defense spending.”

NGA and OEA will put out seven reports and conduct a handful of workshops for states to inform themselves and play up their assets.

The first workshop will be virtually hosted from Sept. 16-18. It will highlight federal and state collaboration on enhancing the experience of military-connected students, spouses seeking licensure and veterans reentering the workforce.

Other workshops will work on installations and resilience.

DoD and NGA are hoping states can find a reciprocal benefit in working with DoD through the program.

“We don’t expect everyone to make monumental shifts in their approaches, but really to enhance and support and innovate some of the efforts that are already underway,” Winters said. “Because this is very much a bipartisan issue, it’s not difficult at all to get governor engagement when talking about military families and defense communities. It’s something that appeals to every single one of them. So we’re really looking forward to the questions that the governors bring in the governor’s policy advisors bring to the table to see how we can better tailor the resources that we put forward in those seven reports.”