TRENTON – The Department of Military and Veteran Affairs has the same budget it had two years ago, so it was easy for Maj. Gen. Glenn Rieth, nine years the Adjutant General of New Jersey, to make his budget pitch before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
State Sen. Jim Beach, (D-6), of Voorhees, asked Rieth whether service men and women in New Jersey had the resources they require.
“I absolutely believe that we are fully equipped and trained to the one standard, the armed standard,” Rieth said. The department is always looking to reduce state funding, he said, and maximize federal money.
The DMVA is planning to open the Seven Seals Assistance Center in Bordentown next summer, Rieth said, ensuring that all 17,000 sailors, soldiers, and airmen and their families will have a place to go when they have military-specific issues or needs.
As far as the struggles that service men and women face returning from war, Rieth said, “I think here in New Jersey we’ve done a phenomenal job…in getting our hands around these tough issues that are difficult to diagnose.”
But for the first time nationally, he said, suicide rates for service men and women exceed the rates for public safety servants.
“Inside our Army ranks we have not had one suicide,” he said, but a couple of months ago an airman committed suicide.
“There were some tough issues that that airman was facing on the home front,” Rieth said, but the Bordentown center would be a place for struggling families to go for consultations and doctor evaluation.
“Regardless of issues, as they transition back to the civilian sector,” Rieth said, “we’re going to be there for them.”
The department is also completing a $3 million multipurpose room next month in Paramus where military personnel and their families can spend time together.
One cost-saving initiative that Rieth said his department is far and away the most successful in the state in is in energy conservation, “reducing our utility bill.”
The employees are trained to treat facilities like their homes, turning off lights and keeping the thermostat low. “No state employees own more turtlenecks,” he said.
The N.J. Air National Guard’s 108th Wing was called in to support air strikes in Libya in March, and Rieth said in his written remarks, “Although the Pentagon had its pick of units, it was no accident ‘Jersey Thunder’ was among the first to get the call.”
Beach also asked what level of preparedness the National Guard has in the case of a state emergency.
“Our level of preparedness has really never been better,” Rieth said, although he also noted, “Less than 1 percent of Americans are in uniform today…Less than 1 percent continues to fight the fight.”