By State Rep. Steve Clouse
In 1995, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted to close Fort McClellan in Anniston. The 82-year-old base’s closure, effective in 1999, is a reminder that we are stewards of the Department of Defense installations assigned here. They are not a given.
Since McClellan closed, a consensus of public and private sector Alabama leaders has joined forces to proactively support DOD’s assets so we are best positioned to protect what’s here currently and to attract DOD programs as new ones emerge. The Alabama Military Stability Commission leads this continuous effort to study resources, evaluate our support and strengthen identified weaknesses. I have served on the commission since its inception in 2011.
This effort is a priority due to the defense industry’s tremendous economic impact in Alabama. The statewide public and private sector footprint tied to the defense industry is upwards of $30 billion and accounts for more than a quarter of a million jobs. There are only a handful of counties in Alabama not impacted in some way by DOD spending. Redstone Arsenal alone accounts for more than 10% of the state’s GDP and is tied to more than a hundred thousand jobs in north Alabama. The economies of central, southwest and southeast Alabama are impacted substantially by the military bases there. Consider Fort Rucker: In 2018, DOD had a $2 billion direct impact on the Wiregrass area (Dale, Coffee and Houston counties) which supported tens of thousands of jobs and countless small businesses in our rural corner of the state. The US Coast Guard in Mobile and the Air Force in Montgomery have a significant impact on those areas as well.
The DOD assignments housed here are the envy of other states. At a bare minimum, it is absolutely necessary for Alabama’s leadership to send an unequivocal, united message in Washington that we are staunch supporters of our military and a reliable partner in furthering its objectives. This is why the election Tuesday — which is likely to decide the fate of our open US Senate seat — has real economic and quality of life consequences to the state of Alabama.
We have planned for new leadership in the US Senate. But in electing that person voters should consider the caliber of leader being replaced and the void they will leave behind. In recent federal budget negotiations on the division of funds set to be spent among all 50 states, retiring Sen. Richard Shelby secured for Alabama the largest share directed toward any one state (more than 6% of the total pool). To replace Shelby with someone who is inconsistent, at best, on support for our military bases is unthinkable. Congressman Brooks, when able to request federal funds for his district, proudly made no such requests, leaving money that could have benefitted Alabama available instead to states competing against us or to fund liberal programs.
Brooks’ record not only puts Alabama’s military bases in jeopardy, it threatens Alabamians’ livelihoods. He has not been the conservative fighter he claims to be. Conservatives are prudent with money available, encourage transparency and hold spenders accountable. A strong military is a core Republican priority. It is therefore the responsibility of fiscal conservatives to see that federal funding is invested where leadership will manage it responsibly. Given all Alabama has to protect, when discussions in Congress turn to where money should be invested, we expect our leaders to fight for us without apology. Brooks has made it clear he will not do this.
This is why Alabamians with a vested interest in the economic vitality of our state have given their support to Katie Britt. This includes home builders, farmers, forestry, law enforcement, the retail industry and small business owners. Those who sincerely care about our future — and seeing our state, our communities, and our families thrive — have pledged to vote for Britt.
My wife Diane and I are 100% behind Katie Britt, too. We believe she will be an ideal US Senator. She has the heart, discipline, Christian-centered values, work ethic and mind for the job. Britt knows, like we do, what military bases mean to Alabamians because Fort Rucker is the lifeblood of her hometown, Enterprise and the surrounding Wiregrass area. Her professional career has exposed her to the ongoing competitive process Alabama undergoes to keep DOD assets here. She knows what other states want, understands why and has the skills to fight successfully on our behalf.
You do not have to take my word that Katie is best for Alabama, take it from the out of state interest groups who have pooled together millions of dollars to influence our Republican primary. That’s right — Every single attack ad against Katie Britt you have seen in the Republican primary runoff has been funded exclusively by out of state sources with no interest whatsoever in Alabama’s prosperity. They planned multi-million dollar ad buys before Katie formally announced she was running and aired the first attack ad against her before she polled at 10%.
Katie poses a threat to the goals of other states because they know she will put Alabama first. She is bad news for them, which makes her great news for us. It’s that simple.
Steve Clouse is a Republican from Ozark who represents District 93 (Dale and Houston counties) in the Alabama House of Representatives, where he serves as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee on the General Fund.