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Practical changes could make military family life easier, general says

Maj. Gen. Shaun Q. Morris, commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base.

By RICK NATHANSON | Albuquerque Journal, N.M. | Published: October 24, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — In a speech Tuesday, a general at Kirtland Air Force base stressed the need for more students to take courses in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Other challenges facing the military, he said, include providing reciprocal licenses for spouses of military members as they move from one locale to another; and getting schools to accept credits as students transfer from school to school.

Maj. Gen. Shaun Q. Morris, commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland, talked about how to ease the transition for military families in the keynote speech for the Kirtland Partnership Committee’s 2018 annual meeting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Albuquerque.

Morris also gave an overview of the mission and structure of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and talked about how the nuclear weapons landscape has changed.

The Kirtland Partnership Committee is a nonprofit coalition of local businesses, and military and support organizations located on the base. The committee’s mission is to “grow Kirtland Air Force Base by helping enhance existing missions and attract appropriate new missions,” as well as supporting legislation at local, state and national levels to help realize these goals.

The Air Force and the various operations at Kirtland Air Force Base generate about $7.6 billion into the local economy.

Getting a qualified work force to stay in New Mexico has long been problematic, but there are well-paying jobs available within the military in the STEM fields.

“STEM is a big deal, and if you don’t start kids early in this area, if they’re not interested in elementary school or middle school, and if it can’t be stoked in high school, they are not going to enter a STEM degree in college and go into a STEM career,” Morris said.

“So how do we get them into the right STEM job, into the right STEM degrees, into the right universities and the right programs, so I can then bring them out the other side and put them to work in nuclear weapons?” asked Morris. “These are things that are challenges to us. We’d love to have a pipeline that develops that workforce here locally and that requires the continuing engagement with universities to make sure they have degree programs that are good feeders into what we need.”

Accepting reciprocal licenses for spouses would make relocating for military families easier. For example, in the case of a spouse licensed as a nurse in another state, “how do we get it so that if they move they don’t have to start completely over?”

Likewise, how easy is it for the children of military families to transfer course credits so they don’t fall behind in school?

Earlier this month, Gov. Susana Martinez ordered changes to the occupational licensing process to make it easier for out-of-state professionals to practice in New Mexico. Some changes, such as fee reductions, can be accomplished through regulatory changes; however, legislation is required to change the reciprocal licensing laws that govern many of the occupations and trades targeted by Martinez’s executive order.

Morris also talked about how the nuclear weapons landscape has changed since he joined the military in the early 1980s. At that time the only other major player was the Soviet Union. “In terms of how we thought about threats and where we looked it was very simple,” he said.

“Today, we still have Russia, but we also have China. India and Pakistan have nuclear arsenals, mostly pointed at each other, and we have emerging states like North Korea and Iran interested in getting into the nuclear business.”

Strategic deterrence went from the simplistic bipolar world of just the U.S. and the Russians, where the rules were clear, as was the comprehension of how the two countries operated and interpreted things, he said.

“There was a language there we both understood. That language is now much more complicated.”

©2018 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
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