MEETING WITH SEN. KING
|Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)|
Our local Bath-based group called the Midcoast Citizens for Sustainable Economies met with Maine's Sen. Angus King this morning at a church in Brunswick for 45 minutes. We went to talk about the need to diversify Maine's current dependence on military production. Seven of us (including past and current Bath Iron Works employees) urged him to help bring to Maine some funds from the Pentagon's Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) that is available to communities to help plan for diversification and/or conversion of their local military installation or facility.
King commented that doing such a thing was a "Delicate issue psychologically. Now things are going well for the Navy as we shift to the Pacific." He said he had no inherent objection though. "I just don't want to ask for money [OEA] that presupposes closure of the yard."
One of our group reminded Sen. King that we are trying to diversify the shipyard at this stage. We can't assume that federal money for military production will be sustained at its current level and cutbacks are inevitable. We should be prepared and not wait and have to back-peddle once cuts eventually come.
King said he would review the situation and think about it. "The premise is good but on the other hand there are several ships now in line at Bath Iron Works (BIW). But it's like being a lawyer with only one client," he concluded.
King went on to tell us that the US is "pitifully under shipped for the Arctic. Someone needs to build a heavy icebreaker, something I am pushing, the Artic is a very important region for us."
One group member asked King to be more forceful in calling for an audit of the Pentagon and to work harder to cut waste, fraud, and abuse inside the military industrial complex. King commented that an audit is now set for 2017 but ought to be done sooner. "The Intelligence budget is $75 billion a year with alot of duplication," King remarked. He said he wants to do more on finding Pentagon waste.
One person in our group currently works at BIW asked Sen. King if he would support legislation in Maine to create a statewide commission to plan for defense diversification. King said that we needed to go to our governor and the legislature for that - "It's not the business I am in anymore."
King went to Washington as a former governor of Maine and is on the Armed Services, Intelligence Budget, and Rules Committees. These are four of the most important committees in the Senate and likely reflect his power as an Independent - meaning he has the freedom to work with either party in an already closely divided government.
The last part of the meeting turned into a broader discussion about America's role in the world. King acknowledged that most of our wars are for oil and for years he has owned a corporation promoting off-shore wind power to help deal with climate change and growing energy needs. "I am convinced that we are in an entirely different world where most of our enemies aren't governments. What I keep raising is what is our strategy? Killing terrorists one at a time does not work. I'm looking for a modern day strategy of deterrence," King said.
One member of the group reminded King that our population in the US is only 5% of the world population yet we use 25% of global resources. I was the note taker in the meeting but at this point I said to Sen. King that the mission of the Pentagon today is to be the primary resource extraction service for corporate globalization. If we dealt with our energy needs back here by building solar, wind and rail at places like BIW we wouldn't have to go to war for oil all the time. I told him that my partner has to drive 45 minutes to Portland every day for work and we should be building light-rail commuter systems at BIW. I handed him a copy of the UMASS-Amherst study that shows we would get many more jobs if we moved away from military production.
At that point the BIW worker, who gathered more than 800 signatures at the shipyard a few years ago on a petition saying they wanted to build wind turbines, turned to Sen. King and said, "We don't have much time with climate change."
Our group will be requesting similar meetings with other elected officials in Maine during the coming months to discuss these same issues. It would be helpful if other people in Maine would send messages to our elected officials saying that you want them to support diversification of the war economy. Diversification/conversion could offer us the chance to move some tax dollars into sustainable and more peaceful endeavors in our state and across the nation.