Washington's military brass got a warm embrace from the state's cities Wednesday when an association of local governments signed a "community covenant" affirming their support for the armed forces.
The covenant doesn’t bind local governments to any specific initiatives. It’s a gesture of good will honoring the more than 66,000 members of the military stationed in Washington.
“They are our neighbors, they are our parents, our brothers, our friends,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire, who signed the covenant at a conference in Olympia for the Association of Washington Cities.
Rising military spending in the state contrasted with the budget gloom facing the city council members at the conference. Like Gregoire, they’re struggling to balance budgets and create jobs. Defense spending has offset some of the downturn’s impacts in Washington. More than 103,000 civilians and enlisted service members draw paychecks from the military in Washington, according to a September study from the Washington Economic Development Commission.
That payroll, coupled with other spending on contracts and supplies, makes for an $8 billion industry in the state, according to the economic study.
Service members “positively impact our communities economically and socially,” said Puyallup Mayor Kathy Turner, who led the signing ceremony as the president of a local government lobbying organization.
Army, Navy Air Force, National Guard, Coast Guard and Marine commanders attended the conference. They signed an over-sized copy of the document with the governor and representatives from local governments.
Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the senior Army officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, told the audience he was in Afghanistan two days ago preparing for the I Corps’ upcoming deployment to Kabul. He said the spirit behind the covenant represented vital support for an Army that’s been at war for the past decade.
“It’s why our service members downrange do as well as they do,” he said.
Scaparrotti’s base is the state’s third-largest employer with more than 47,000 civilian and military employees, according to the economic study. It’s in position to grow more in the years ahead as the Army plans to build up a helicopter brigade by adding about 1,400 soldiers to existing aviation units.
“The welcome mat is absolutely out in Washington,” he said.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/military