When one thinks of Washington State in the Pacific Northwest, visions of lush temperate Olympic rainforests or glacial glad mountains of North Cascades National Park might come to mind.
Instead, what if you learned Washington State was allocating millions of dollars of its taxpayers' money to fund an institution set up to do nothing more than lobby for a larger military presence?
Additionally, what if you found out that one of your elected representatives, who you were led to believe was a liberal Democrat, had positioned herself atop said institution, and had actively sponsored a bill aimed at allowing the military free reign to do what it wants -- wherever it wants to do it -- within the state, with little or no recourse for the citizens it could impact?
In supposedly "blue" Washington State, this is exactly what is happening.
The taxpayer-funded institution set up to lobby for military expansion is the Washington Military Alliance (WMA). The politician is Washington Rep. Kristine Reeves, a Democrat who also happens to be the executive director of the WMA. The bill she sponsored, HB 2341 (SB 6456 in the state senate), would have essentially handed United States military commanders control of the state's land use powers.
"Kristine Reeves is double dipping, although it might be legal, [by] being the executive director for the Washington Military Alliance while proposing laws that advance the objectives of the WMA as a Washington State legislator," Glen Milner, a researcher with the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, told Truthout.
"In addition, the Washington Military Alliance gets its grants from the DOD," added Milner, who has been tracking the expanding militarism across Washington State for decades. "I suppose this is just corruption at work."
While Reeves might be progressive on many issues, she's clearly doing the military's bidding, according to Milner.
A Truthout investigation points toward powerful forces in the state government actively collaborating with the Department of Defense.
And while HB 2341 failed, for now, to make it out of committee -- thanks to committed grassroots efforts by citizens concerned about their state becoming a wider-scale military training area -- Reeves' efforts run far deeper than just that bill.
"Washington State residents should be concerned because the WMA sees at least some parts of the state as a 'power projection platform' for the military," Milner warned Truthout.
In fact, "power projection platform" are not Milner's words, they are Rep. Reeves' words. The lawmaker used the exact same phrase in an email to members of Washington State's Department of Commerce. In the January 2016 email obtained by Truthout, Rep. Reeves discussed her efforts to help generate a graphic for the deputy chief of staff at Joint Base Lewis-McCord (JBLM) in Washington, a massive military installation south of Tacoma, to show "the value of the strategic placement of JBLM and its dependence on the 'outside the fence' infrastructure that creates the designation of power projection platform."
Her rough graphic shows four arrows emanating from Washington State and pointing across the Pacific toward North Korea and other locations.
A "power projection platform," a term used by both the military and the WMA, is a hub for the combined elements of national power -- political, economic, informational and military -- that facilitates a country's ability to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces around the world.
Reeves is far from alone in her efforts. Jay Inslee, Washington's so-called "green governor," along with his Department of Commerce, appears to have been, for years, acting as a strong proponent for military activity in Washington State. By actively supporting the WMA and other similar efforts, as well as signing off on documents like the Retaining and Expanding Military Missions: Increasing Defense Spending and Investment, Inslee has sought to increase military personnel and training across Washington.
"This is all about who controls Washington State," Milner warned. "Does our state government follow the wishes of state citizens, or the Department of Defense?"
A Truthout investigation points toward powerful forces in the state government actively collaborating with the Department of Defense.
Washington State's Not-So-Secretive Collusion With the WMA
Founded in 2012 under then Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, the WMA was made operational under Governor Inslee in 2014, with a $4.3 million grant from the DOD's Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA).
The OEA has provided other grants for Washington State and counties, such as funding for Joint Land Use Studies, which are supposedly planning efforts between active military installations and their surrounding jurisdictions, state and federal agencies, and other affected stakeholders aimed at addressing compatibility around military installations and military operations. In 2016, the OEA provided a $585,000 grant to the Department of Commerce (which includes the WMA) to create a legislative report for military issues and for 2017 program funding.
Throughout his term, Gov. Inslee has shown himself to be a great friend of the Navy.
"As you might expect, all of this creates nothing more than propaganda for the Department of Defense," Milner explained. "Whenever the WMA addresses anything, the first thing mentioned is jobs, jobs, jobs -- without any analysis of how the civilian sector could use huge areas of real estate in Washington State that are now military bases. The various Joint Land Use Studies and the legislative report are all propaganda with no input that might stand against military objectives."
Documents show that, via the Washington Military Alliance, Washington's Department of Commerce hired The Spectrum Group as their go-to beltway consulting group to assist in making all of Washington State "more compatible" with military activities.
Several emails have revealed Rep. Reeves' ongoing efforts to work closely with military personnel by sharing meals and meetings with them over recent years, as they collaborated on many issues geared towards giving the military more control over land-use decisions across Washington.
Unfortunately, the taxpayer funded WMA/Department of Commerce reports appear to have been accepted as fact by Reeves and some other members of the legislature, as evidenced by the egregious nature of failed-HB 2341.
All of this has serious practical implications for residents of Washington State. The emails between the WMA (Reeves), the Department of Commerce and the Governor’s Office from 2016 reveal that the Department of Defense has expressed interest in utilizing large areas of the state for its purposes. These are called Regions of Military Influence (RMI) and, according to the emails, the Department of Defense's planning models extend beyond a physical base to include military airspace, testing and training ranges/corridors, along with electronic warfare areas, among others.
Throughout his term, Gov. Inslee has shown himself to be a great friend of the Navy. In 2015 when Gov. Inslee received the highest civilian honor from the Navy (See photo above.) One of the reasons for honoring Inslee, listed on the award, was his role in helping to keep Boeing in Seattle in 2014, as well as his efforts to maintain a strategic industrial base in Washington: Inslee worked to provide huge tax breaks and other incentives for Boeing.
The Department of Defense is taking a close look at our area and either hoping or demanding that our political leaders comply with its wishes.
The public was told that the $8.7 billion dollars in tax breaks and union contract concessions promoted by Gov. Inslee were to keep the Boeing 777X production in the region.
However, after Boeing got its tax break, it ended up cutting jobs in Washington State, hence the purpose of keeping Boeing jobs in the state via tax breaks and union contract concessions was not attained.
Furthermore, the award ceremony in which Gov. Inslee received his award from the Navy was coordinated in part by Rep. Reeves, who helped to provide Inslee his talking points for a 2015 meeting with then Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
"The Department of Defense is taking a close look at our area and either hoping or demanding that our political leaders comply with its wishes," Milner said. "All of this constitutes a perversion of our political systems."
To make matters worse, Milner asserts that the WMA has not complied with the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), a state law requiring that public meetings occur in public view. The WMA has held meetings in the past at locations requiring security access. However, a 2012 Washington Policy Center statement cited the Washington State Office of Financial Management in determining that the WMA was not subject to the OPMA. If so, the WMA is not required to hold meetings to alert the public of their actions, nor solicit opinion about it.
Beyond Gov. Inslee's involvement, it's important to note that Washington State's efforts to promote the military have been ongoing for years. In just one example, in 2012, a Congressional delegation, acting on behalf of the WMA, proposed spending $13 million in taxpayer money simply to promote the military by calling on "civilian governments" to "take steps that would make them more attractive to the military," according to a news story in The News Tribune.
Most recently, a December 2017 report from the Spectrum Group, the consulting group hired to make Washington State more compatible with the military, contains very specific language and goals. An example: "Objective 2.C: Advisory Body for Governor and the Legislature," which, "[r]ecommend leveraging the significant number of former senior military officials and former Congressional members with defense experience to create a Military Advisory Council to advise the Governor and Legislature on military base related issues, including compatible development." (Emphasis added.)
Charles Knutila is a retired Command Sergeant Major in the Army who lives on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. Just before HB 2341 went into committee, Knutila reached out to his state representatives to express his outrage over their collaboration with the DOD.
In an email he wrote to his representatives which he provided to Truthout, Knutila wrote, "The executive director of the WMA, Representative Reeves, although a member of the House of Representatives, is functioning as a lobbyist for the Department of Defense in obtaining Economic Adjustment dollars in order to put together a lobbying organization to protect the military/industrial sectors interests."
Knutila questioned whether a person could represent both the military and the people.
"Is Representative Reeves registered as a lobbyist?" he wrote. "Who does Representative Reeves, the house sponsor of this bill, similar to the Senate version, work for? The defense industry, the Department of Commerce, or actually the citizens of the State of Washington?"
Knutila told Truthout that he "strongly objects" to Washington's Department of Commerce "funneling DOD dollars into a military-industrial complex lobbying group for the purpose of influencing state and local business matters."
Angie Homola, a former Island Country Commissioner, holds a Masters in Environmental Law and Policy, and is also deeply troubled by the collusion between Washington State representatives and the DOD.
"I was surprised to see so many Democrat sponsors on these bills, which fueled my efforts to communicate the ruinous impacts and to call upon legislators to halt these bills," Homola, who is married to a former Naval Aviator of 25 years, told Truthout.
Without naming Rep. Reeves specifically, she pointed to potential conflicts of interest.
"The House prime sponsor’s role as an elected state representative in tandem with her state agency paid position may not be against the law in Washington, but it does call to question obvious conflicts when that official's legislation will directly benefit the department she directs," Homola said.
Homola pointed out that the 2014 study laid out a plan to identify how Washington State will backfill lost DOD spending while "promoting a long-term strategic plan in support of the military and defense sector."
"Valid independent cost and benefit studies must be conducted that accurately reflect the costs of military occupation and expansion in Washington State before we invite and pay for further expansion," she added.
As an Island County Democratic Party State Committee Member, Homola serves on the State Democratic Party's Central Committee. In that capacity, she wrote a resolution to oppose Reeves' pro-military-control bills and to send a clear message to legislators that the bills negated constitutional tenants and local control.
The majority of the bill's sponsors were Democrats.
"While these bills fail to comply with numerous Democrat Party planks, I do not see land use planning and property rights as partisan issues," Homola said. "My resolution passed unanimously out of the first two gates, and was then hampered by paid staff opposition and influence. The carrot dangled for state funding was inviting to jurisdictions already struggling to cope with military impacts."
Homola believes it is in Washington State's best interest to have a diversified economy, and not one that relies heavily on any one sector, especially one that shifts federal expenses to state and local government.
"We need a strong military, but we need to maintain that military as a publicly controlled branch where we the people decide, based on fact and need, just how many machines and troops are necessary and where testing and occupation are appropriate," she said. "Privatizing the military means losing control and transparency -- putting CEO profits before public interest. This is a constitutional not a partisan issue."
"Retaining and Expanding Military Missions"
The 2014 defense contractor report entitled "Retaining and Expanding Military Missions -- Increasing Defense Spending and Investment" acknowledged and thanked several Washington State elected officials and civic councils for their close work with the military. The report also acknowledged the WMA and recommended that officials "formalize the Washington Military Alliance as an advisory board to assist State, Federal and Local officials with policy recommendations affecting Washington State’s military installations" and establish a grant program "to help communities in addressing particular areas of need to support their local base."
Alongside dozens of military personnel of various ranks, lawmakers such as Sen. Patty Murray (D), along with Rep. Reeves and then newly-elected Rep. Derek Kilmer, were thanked by name.
Then-Gov. Gregoire's office, along with Washington's Department of Commerce and Transportation, were acknowledged, along with the mayors of cities like Oak Harbor, Spokane, and Lacey. The University of Washington was acknowledged, along the two ports, several economic alliances and development councils, two chambers of commerce, and even a real estate firm.
The WMA's Memorandum of Agreement states that its purpose is "convened by the Governor and includes representation from Washington state legislators, state agencies, local elected officials, regional community groups supporting local military installations, and organizations promoting military and defense economic development in Washington State."
It adds that the WMA itself will provide a "framework for collaboration in the state between local governments, military installations, state agencies, and federal agencies to better coordinate a unified message as military and defense decisions are being considered, and it will recommend actions to be taken at local, state, and federal levels to enhance military infrastructure, industry, and partnership retention and expansion in Washington State."
Given that the US is, at least in theory a democracy, advocates say that what is missing in this equation is civilian opinion -- especially since, ultimately, it is civilian lives that will be most affected.
At the time of this writing, Truthout's request for comment from Rep. Reeves has not received a response.