Supporting Arizona’s Veterans, Servicemembers, and Growing Our National Defense Industries

Introduction

The state of Arizona plays a vital role in safeguarding America’s freedom and ensuring our country’s security. Our elected officials, our aerospace and defense (A&D) industries, and especially the men and women who wear our nation’s uniform all have responsibilities in this mission.

Arizonans have a long history of service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Today, our state is proud to be home to approximately 600,000 veterans and their families, including our Gold Star families whose courageous veterans gave their lives in defense of our nation. The Grand Canyon State also is home to six major Active Duty installations and four National Guard facilities that are vital to national security.

As our next governor, I plan to move forward with a real and actionable strategy to improve the availability and quality of veterans programs and to make Arizona the best state in the nation for these Americans and their families. That means providing more educational and employment opportunities; operating better health care programs; and working with public- and private-sector organizations to attract and retain members of this highly skilled and sought-after workforce.

Our military installations and the A&D industries, which work hand-in-hand to protect servicemembers, make a critical contribution to America’s security – and to our state’s economy, which boasts at least 1,250 companies employing more than 57,800 workers in the A&D supply chain. There is a reason that Arizona benefited from $20.2 billion in defense spending in fiscal year 2020.

I will work to protect our military installations from any proposed base closure rounds and work closely with the congressional delegation to expand their missions in partnership with other federal partners. Local communities that welcome military installations have a proven track record of working with servicemembers and their families, and it is a record on which I’ll build by preserving and expanding Arizona’s share of the national security sector.

My administration will work tirelessly to attract A&D companies to Arizona though a combination of tax reform, the reduction of burdensome regulations, and targeted workforce development programs that ensure all Arizonans the opportunity of having high quality, well-paying jobs.

Observations

Arizona’s Veterans

One in ten Arizonans – 10.8 percent of the population – is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, one of the highest veteran rates in the country. Although the specifics differ, it is important to remember that these brave men and women share the same concerns as all other members of our communities:

  • Economic security
  • Educational attainment
  • The happiness and stability of their families
  • The general well-being that comes with the support of a community

Service to our nation often comes at a price, and many veterans suffer from serious, long-term health issues that can impact their and their families’ quality of life. Many veterans also experience challenges with employment prospects due to the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life and translating military service into traditional workforce skills.

Unfortunately, the veteran unemployment rate in Arizona increased to 9.6 percent of the labor force in 2020 – the second-highest in the country. That is unacceptable to me.

Arizona’s Military Installations and Servicemembers

Arizonans should be proud of the irreplaceable role that our state plays in national security.

Within our border, there are four National Guard facilities and six major Active Duty installations. Those installations are (1) Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, (2) Fort Huachuca in Cochise County, (3) Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, (4) Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, (5) U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, which expands to La Paz County, and (6) U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station.

Here, every hour of the day, Arizonans engage in sophisticated activities that are critical to national defense. This includes the training of U.S. and allied pilots and aircrews, aerial interception missions on the U.S.-Mexico border, aerial refueling, military intelligence, electronic warfare, strategic communications, and the testing of new equipment.

Together, these military institutions represent a statewide footprint generating countless jobs and other important benefits for the Grand Canyon State.

Some military bases in Arizona are at risk from urban encroachment, a trend that makes them potentially vulnerable to future rounds of base closures and transfer of their missions and personnel to other states.

Arizona’s Aerospace and Defense Industries

The A&D sector is a key element of Arizona’s economy and includes leading corporations such as Raytheon, Boeing, Honeywell, and Northrop Grumman. Arizona leads the nation in missile production – we are home to the largest missile production facility in the world – and ranks second in the nation for aviation maintenance. The Grand Canyon State ranks in the top five states for A&D manufacturing and is in the top ten overall for A&D manufacturing attractiveness.

In fiscal year 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense reported $17.3 billion on A&D contracts in Arizona.

Recruiting and retaining A&D firms is a highly competitive endeavor. Our state’s past success has provided us with an advantageous starting point, but it is clear that we need to do more to grow this vital component of the economy. This means continuing to enhance and broaden Arizona’s attractiveness for new investments in critical future battlespace technologies like unmanned aerial systems, cyber technology, advanced communications networks, artificial intelligence, and space systems.

Initial Recommendations

Apply a Statewide Approach to Identifying Veterans’ Issues and Improving Veterans’ Services

Employ a strategic vision to public policymaking that takes real action to improve the lives of veterans and their families.

  • As governor, I will create a new executive-level Governor’s Advisory Commission on Veterans Affairs staffed with qualified veterans and empowered to work with organizations across the state to identify persistent and emerging issues in our veteran community. The commission will assist in crafting long-term, meaningful solutions and will provide an important seat at the table for rural Arizona that will work exclusively with veterans in these communities who are often left out of the conversation.
  • With the advice of the Military Affairs Commission, we will proactively engage with the Association of the United States Army, the Air & Space Forces Association, and other national organizations to remain educated on benefits- and needs-related issues affecting veterans.
  • Reform and improve the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services so that it is better able to provide needed services to veterans across the state. This will include ensuring an adequate number of qualified Veterans Service Officers to provide quality, in-person services to veterans in every county based on veteran population. I also will ask the agency to update its schedule of outreach events by hosting a Gold Star Remembrance Day to honor Gold Star families.
  • Ensure that all veterans have the opportunity to participate in our state’s education and workforce training programs by supporting initiatives that are laser-focused on outcomes and achievements for veterans, not distracted by fundraising and public relations as we often unfortunately see. This includes but is not limited to building out the veterans centers on our college and university campuses.
  • Improve state government’s ability to facilitate veterans’ transition from military life to the civilian workforce and strengthen statewide capabilities that connect veterans with employers. We will work closely with outreach coordinators in government who can assist non-profit organizations on job placement efforts.
  • Exceed state agencies’ goals for hiring veterans and encourage county and municipal governments to do the same.
  • Restore and expand state and federal tax credits that empower companies to hire veterans and incentivize the creation and growth of veteran-owned businesses by offering targeted tax relief and reducing the regulatory burden on these patriotic entrepreneurs so that they are not facing unjustified barriers to entry.
  • Work with judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and reformers to reinvigorate the Veterans Court programs throughout Arizona. Like the rest of us, those who serve our nation are capable of making mistakes. They deserve the opportunity to ‘reset’ their lives with the assistance of community resources, still held accountable but allowed to start anew as model citizens – which is exactly what drove them to serve in the first place.
  • Establish a program between the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services and law enforcement to ensure that soon-to-be-released incarcerated veterans are formally connected with organizations such as the Arizona Housing Coalition so that they have a place to live and sleep right away.
  • Establish a new state-run website that serves as a central hub for veterans. It will represent a one-stop-shop containing information about resources, such as benefits, employment opportunities, networking events, and independently vetted organizations in Arizona.

Veterans’ Health Care

For many veterans, the disabilities that they incurred in service to our nation present life-long challenges – for themselves and their families. I am dedicated to ensuring that Arizona veterans receive the best medical care possible. As governor, I will:

  • Work with our congressional delegation to advocate for increased funding and expanded accessibly of veterans’ health care services. I will take proactive steps to hold the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs accountable for these services within our state – including for female veterans who have special medical needs and deserve Veterans Affairs Medical Center clinics where they can be treated with dignity and honor as well as separately from the male veterans population. I also will work with federal officials to implement changes recommended by the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission.
  • Ensure Arizona’s three state veteran homes (and the fourth in Yuma currently under construction) are transparent and accountable about their operations. State government needs to stay on top of these entities so that they are properly serving their clients. This can include but is not limited to a thorough behavioral and financial audit conducted by an entity independent of the Arizona Department of Administration.
  • Secure grants from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the purpose of expanding state veterans cemeteries to new locations. This can be accomplished with assistance from legislative and executive branch partners within the federal government. Families and friends should not have to drive several hours in order to visit the gravesite of their beloved veteran.
  • Meet regularly with the directors of our three major VA Health Care System facilities, veterans organizations, and past and present servicemembers. These conversations will allow me to better understand the obstacles and challenges veterans face related to consistent access and efficient delivery of medical care in Arizona.
  • Expand the availability of mental health and counseling services to veterans, their families, and their caregivers – especially in rural areas and underserved communities.

Servicemembers and Their Families

Active duty, National Guard, and Reserve servicemembers and their families are important parts of communities across Arizona.

  • As governor, I will only recruit to the Military Affairs Commission approachable and well-qualified individuals whose unique experiences will ensure that I understand the key concerns and issues facing military communities across the state.
  • I will maintain a direct and frequent line of communication with the leaders of the National Guard facilities and Active Duty installations in Arizona, staying up-to-date with day-to-day necessities and challenges as needed and fostering greater engagement between the U.S. military and civilian communities.
  • Guarantee that military families are aware of school choice programs so that their children enjoy the same access to a top-notch education as non-military children.
  • Provide everyday tax and fee relief to veterans. There is no reason for veterans to pay for license plates honoring their and their brothers and sisters’ service. We also can work with county and municipal governments to offer property tax relief to veterans dealing with disability issues.
  • Military spouses often face unique employment challenges due to sudden and unexpected relocation requirements. To make it easier for these men and women to advance in their careers, I am committed to keeping Arizona laws up-to-date with interstate reciprocity agreements and pursuing licensure reforms whenever they are needed through the legislature. Governor Doug Ducey has done a tremendous job advancing this important issue, and I would love to take it further.
  • Make Arizona the best state in the nation for transitioning and retired U.S. military personnel through tax relief, tuition benefits for their children, and the elimination of the state income tax on any private-sector compensation received by veterans.

Military Installations

I want Congress and the U.S. Department of Defense to understand that we are engaged in ongoing competition to attract federal investment to the Grand Canyon State by preserving our military installations and broadening their missions.

  • With the advice of the Military Affairs Commission, I will explore the strategic financing of the Military Installation Fund. This funding helps our military bases deal with encroachment issues and infrastructure challenges that could make them vulnerable to future base closure rounds and movement of their personnel and missions to other states – which will not happen when I am governor.
  • I also will charge the commission with proactively seeking out opportunities to influence U.S. Department of Defense efforts to expand the roles and missions of military bases in the Arizona.

Aerospace and Defense Industries

The A&D sector is crucial to Arizona’s economy, and ensuring its expansion is a key element of my overall economic plan.

  • With the advice of the Military Affairs Commission, continuously engage with national and local organizations, including but not limited to the National Defense Industrial Association, the Mesa Industry and Defense Council, and the Arizona Commerce Authority to attract defense industries and encourage the creation of similar organizations in other parts of the state.
  • Develop lower tax and lighter regulatory policies to incentivize the siting or relocation of existing or new defense research and manufacturing facilities from other, less supportive states. Aggressively advertise these policies to attract new A&D manufacturers to our state.
  • Strengthen our workforce education and training programs to provide the skills that A&D corporations are seeking out. These industry leaders are well-positioned to identify long- and short-term needs that can be filled by Arizona’s past and present servicemembers so that we can expand economic opportunities at the same time that we strengthen national security.

Conclusion

As stated at the beginning of this policy paper, the people of Arizona play a vital role in safeguarding America’s freedom and ensuring our country’s security.

For those Arizonans who have served our nation in uniform, I promise to work every single day to expand the quality of services available to these men and women. We will work hand-in-hand with our partners in the federal government to hold the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs accountable for meeting its obligations to those who serve.

For active duty, National Guard, and Reserve servicemembers and their families who call Arizona home, I’ll work to ensure they have access to the educational and employment opportunities available to all people across our great state – from making it easier for military spouses to advance in their careers to empowering veteran-owned businesses and the entrepreneurs leading them.

Arizona’s military installations and A&D industries are crucial elements of our nation’s defense and our state’s economy. Let’s enable these national security partners to live up to their potential by simultaneously expanding opportunities for those in uniform who know the field best.

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