RIVERSIDE – A retired Riverside County official whose public service included work in a range of occupations, overseeing military and foreign affairs, will be the eyes and ears of an Inland Empire congressman on Governor Jerry Brown’s military council, helping shape decisions that impact federal installations throughout California.
Tom Freeman, 57, of Banning, was appointed by Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, to serve on the council for the rest of 2017 and beyond.
“It’s a thrill and an honor to be helping out,” Freeman said. “I look forward to it. The military is near and dear to my heart. I really cherish this opportunity.”
Freeman was tapped to serve on the council last month and will be attending all future meetings, he said.
“We’re focused on programs and legislation. It’s very much pro-national defense,” he said. “California is home to more than 30 military installations, doing nearly $400 billion a year in business. The state needs to pay close attention and support defense growth. We have to be engaged at the policy level and be aware of the implications of any base closures.”
Freeman served as the military affairs commissioner for Riverside County over a five-year span. He was also the foreign affairs commissioner and the film commissioner, and additionally served for several years on the Workforce Development Board. He retired from county government in January 2015.
Prior to his county service, he was a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force and later rose through the ranks of the California Military Department, retiring as a colonel.
While working for the county, one of Freeman’s foremost concerns was Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC. The March Air Reserve Base in Moreno Valley and the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Norco were both at risk of being placed on the Pentagon’s BRAC list.
March was stripped down to reserve status in 1996, losing two-thirds of its territory and 70 percent of its workforce, narrowly escaping a full shutdown.
Freeman said that the two bases are less likely to face dissolution under the administration of President Trump. The former county official said he hoped to be a positive influence on the governor’s Military Council in promoting strategies that increase defense contracting opportunities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
“About 900 businesses in Riverside County employ 9,500 to 10,000 people because of Department of Defense contracts,” he said. “Those are manufacturing and engineering jobs. As defense spending is ramped up under President Trump, California has an opportunity to make an even greater contribution to defense, in avionics, munitions and other fields.”
Freeman would not comment on the discord stemming from the governor’s and other legislative leaders’ condemnation of the president’s policies regarding immigration, health care and, most recently, the environment.
“I am not going to get into political issues on the council,” Freeman said. “I’m going to be talking about military bases, hardware, civilian
contracting and personnel.”