From cutbacks to opportunities

Letter to the Editor
Akron Beacon Journal / November 20, 2013

The announced layoffs at Lockheed Martin are tragic for the workers and their families, as well as economically harmful to the city. The action, however, shouldn’t be surprising as our nation winds down from two wars and grapples with an unbalanced federal budget.

Rather than blame one group or another for Lockheed’s decision, time would be better spent by all stakeholders involved (especially workers and federal and local officials) investigating the feasibility of implementing the “Framework for Defense Transition Assistance” proposed earlier this year by the Institute for Policy Studies.

The document offers several practical recommendations for economic conversion to assist workers, communities and military industries. Among them are:

• Strengthen existing federal assistance for community planning, technical assistance, job retraining and finance to communities facing military plant closures. Specifically, increase planning and technical assistance grants from the Pentagon’s Office of Economic Adjustment to communities dealing with private sector military job loss, not just base closings.

• Expand funding for the Commerce Department’s Regional Innovation Center as well as Energy and Treasury Department programs designed to spur regional economic growth via the development of clean energy and sustainable transportation technologies. Re-fund the Labor Department’s job training programs addressing green jobs and adjustment for dislocated military workers.

• Restore several effective post-Cold War military downsizing programs focused on developing civilian uses for existing military technology.

• Initiate new programs responding to current conditions. This includes a National Network for Manufacturing that would earmark funds for environmentally sustainable clean energy, lightweight materials and efficient appliances, lights, computers and transportation, while also increasing the role for communities and workers in creating and sharing the gains of the innovations. Expand the current GI Bill to expand benefits for vocational training. Pass the Veteran Employment Assistance Act to help veteran-owned small businesses.

Some of these proposals would directly help Lockheed workers and Akron right now. Others are more long-term opportunities to transfer from what has been acknowledged or not as a national military industrial policy to a civilian one geared to sustainable and sensible energy, transportation and other sectors. The time for this is long overdue.

Greg Coleridge
Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee
Cuyahoga Falls

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