Governor Bush Shares Thoughts
Military and Homeland Defense

by
Scott T. Jackson,
Published in Military.com and 
Climate Magazine Mar - Apr 2002
Vol 13, Issue 2
(Index of Other Articles)

 

Military Impact in Northwest Florida – Local vs. National Spins on Military Preparedness

The duties of a state governor experienced a dramatic makeover as a result of the events of 9/11.  Florida’s Governor Bush took time to provide his thoughts on the events of that day, our military and how the role of homeland defense became the “front and center” focus of our state.

In an interview in his office the Governor related he was at a meeting of his cabinet on Sept 11th.  “Word came in dribs and drabs,” he said, referring to the news updates.  The first picture literally looked like a small plane went into the World Trade Center, it was an AP wire photo.”  

“We knew that the first plane was a commercial airliner and then we saw the second plane,” he recounted.  “My brother was here in Florida. So I was worried about him, I was worried about my whole family and I was just angry that something like this could happen to our great country.” 

“So we finished the meeting and I went to the Emergency Operations Center and spent the rest of the day there trying to determine how secure the likely targets in our state were. We evacuated this building [executive office building] and the Department of Education building, which is a larger building here in Tallahassee and monitored events around the state. I really didn’t have a whole lot of time to reflect on the details of it because we were working pretty hard.

But the day’s events did take their toll on the Governor and his staff.  “It was a very emotional time both personally and just as a citizen of this country. I think everybody felt the same feelings of disbelief and anger and grief and sadness. It was a really sad day.”

We asked Governor Bush how he viewed his role with respect to homeland defense and how he might see it evolve.

“The role of governors will be critical in homeland defense,” he insists. “You could take the entire FBI, the cadre of agents, special agents working the FBI and move them out off what they were doing and put them into counter-terrorism efforts. And it’s still only 10,000 people, 10,000 agents. In the state of Florida alone we have 41,000 sworn law enforcement officers.”

Moreover, the Governor sees greater responsibility being levied on local governments. He added, “So if we are going to be successful in creating this safety net around us, invisible safety net to protect citizens so that they could pursue freedom and do what they want to do we have to rely on local law enforcement, local fire/rescue, the first responders in the event of an attack.”

“By the spring of 2002 every law enforcement officer, every fire/rescue person and every public health official will have received some degree of training as it relates to these new threats to our security – threats of terrorism.”

In conjunction with local officials the Governor sees the Florida National Guard and the Coast Guard as critical components of the homeland defense strategy.  “I’ve always been a strong advocate of the coast guard and concerned about the cut backs in the Coast Guard along our coast. The role of the Coast Guard is so critical for Homeland defense. Our seaports are major engines of commerce and they provide huge economic benefits to our states and they need to be protected. The National Guard plays a critical role in this, I’m really proud of the Florida National Guard. They have stepped up, almost within 24 hours, when the president asked the governors to use the Guard for the airports and they are still there.”

 

Although the nation’s military received prominence in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Governor Bush has always been acutely aware of the sizable contingent of military and military related activity he supports in the state.

The presence is formidable: 21 military installations in 13 counties and three unified commands that together employ over 115,000 active duty and civilian personnel.  Fifty-two of Florida’s 67 counties are home to defense contractors contributing $7 billion annually and tens of thousands of jobs to the state’s economy.  Military retirees provide an additional $3 billion annual boost. Combined, the military and defense-related industries have a $30 billion annual impact on Florida’s economy.

I hope we’re the most hospitable place in the country,” the Governor notes. 

Notwithstanding the economic impact the Governor is quick to cite the contributions of those military members conducting the campaign against terrorism in abroad.

“We’re blessed with a lot of Floridians, young men and women, serving in the military and doing extraordinary things right now,” he says.  “It is a time of real sadness but also a time of enormous pride in our country.”

The Governor demonstrates a deep understanding of the different roles the military units in his state provide as well as their contributions to the civilian sector.

“The centers of excellence that have been developed create spin-offs that go beyond the military for additional jobs – simulation being probably a prime area. But also the armament areas in general…there’s all sorts of interesting commercial applications now that are being developed.”

The armaments area refers to the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, which develops, and tests various munitions including many of the precision guided versions often seen in Department of Defense news releases.  The simulation industry supporting the military has established a toehold along the central Florida I-4 corridor.  Offices for technology transfer facilitate the passage of some of this technology into commercial applications.

“We have developed a real expertise in Orlando,” he notes.  ““I am proud of the fact that a lot of this stuff is being done here in Florida.”

Proud and yet wary of the ominous possibility of further reductions in military infrastructure affecting the state.  The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) have already conducted several rounds of facility closures nationwide in order to reduce overhead with the next one slated for 2005.

To preclude a BRAC round from disrupting the symbiosis between the military and the state, the Governor’s Office of Trade, Tourism & Economic Development (OTTED - the Governor’s self-proclaimed contribution to the plethora of military acronyms) is positioned closely with the military commanders in the state to address a myriad of issues.  This strong relationship with the commanders gives the Governor early warning of support issues they contend with on a regular basis.

But the governor emphasizes that what is good for the whole country must be what drives the decision-making process in spite of its effect on his state.  In reference to the possibility of one of the Florida-based unified commands being affected by infrastructure reduction the Governor notes, “Those decisions should not be based on politics - really should be based on the national security interests of the country.”

The Governor acknowledged that change is inevitable and often hard to swallow.  “Change is difficult,” he says.  “But as I said there can be many good opportunities going forward to expand the military’s presence in our state with the new command structures that are being looked at and the new opportunities that will be afforded with the new thinking. The world’s changing, so should the military and they have done a pretty good job of it I think.”

Scott Jackson interviewed the Governor for military.com on Dec 13, 2002.  Scott may be reached at scott@mindlace.com.

Scott Jackson
Mindlace Media
850-217-7994

  2001 Scott Jackson

 

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