County Backs Military Office

Times Staff Writer

Ventura County supervisors are asking Gov. Gray Davis to reconsider cutting a state office that helps military installations in California fend off closure.

Faced with a nearly $35-billion budget shortfall, Davis cut funding for the Office of Military Base Support for the current fiscal year and proposes eliminating it altogether in fiscal 2003-04.

But with Congress gearing up for another round of base closures in 2005, California must be ready to keep its 61 installations from being targeted, said board Chairwoman Judy Mikels.

That includes the Point Mugu portion of Naval Base Ventura County, which was briefly targeted in 1995. A quick mobilization of resources spared Point Mugu from closure, Mikels said.

But elsewhere in California, 29 were shuttered during the 1990s, she said. That translated to a loss of 400,000 military and private-sector jobs in California, with a cumulative economic loss of $30 billion, Mikels said.

"It's important to have this office of military support open at least through 2005," said Mikels, whose husband made his career in the Air Force.

Hilary McLean, a Davis spokeswoman, said the governor has little choice but to propose the cuts.

"We're having to look under every rock and every nook and cranny for every available dollar that is not critical to our core mission," McLean said. "It's not a choice we want to make, but it's a year when we don't have enough money to do all things we want to do."

In Ventura County, operations at Port Hueneme and Point Mugu pump an estimated $1 billion into the local economy. In Simi Valley alone, 99 businesses rely on contracts with Naval Base Ventura County for survival, Mikels said.

With the economy already ailing, closure of the base would be devastating, she said, adding, "It's no time to lose our bases."

A resolution backed by all five supervisors will be sent to the governor asking him to restore funding. The office, based in Sacramento, is run by William Jefferds, a retired general.

Supervisor Kathy Long, who is frequently in the Capitol on county business, said Jefferds has done a good job coordinating information and support for all of the state's bases.

"He knows who to lobby, who to go talk to," Long said. "I understand the state is facing its own budget trouble, but you have to prioritize. If [Congress] is looking at cutting another 25% of the country's bases, that's a lot of jobs."

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