WASHINGTON — California's congressional delegation Thursday asked the University of California to coordinate broad efforts aimed at easing the blow of massive defense spending cuts on the state's economy.
With defense industries in California having to deal with major spending reductions in the wake of a diminished Soviet threat, "our delegation wants to make that transition as painless and as productive as possible," Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) said in releasing a letter signed by 27 Democrats and seven Republicans.
Miller acknowledged that the bid to develop an economic adjustment program has a political aspect: It will be easier for lawmakers to slash the military if they can assure voters that there is a plan to cushion the impact.
The delegation asked that a California Economic Transition Project be set up and coordinated by UC's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, a multi-campus research unit based in La Jolla.
The lawmakers suggested that the institute, which receives funding from both the state and private foundations, undertake activities including:
* A statewide information service identifying the extent of California's dependence on defense spending and the need for planning adjustments to cutbacks.
* Workshops on preparing for base closures and on using educational institutions to retrain engineers, technicians and managers affected by defense contract cancellations.
* A study on adapting UC technology transfer programs to help defense contractors enter commercial markets.
* A related study on matching the transportation and other infrastructure needs of California communities with the technological capabilities of defense contractors.
* Pilot transition projects for areas already targeted for military spending cuts.
* A study of the role that state or federal legislation might play in the transition process.
"In California, the reduction in military spending could have a profound impact," Miller told reporters. "According to one estimate, California could lose 200,000 defense-related jobs by 1995."
However, Miller added, "while the transition will have a significant impact on the nature of our state's economy, it need not be a detrimental impact on the vitality of the state or its residents.
"Many defense contractors, anticipating the shift in national spending priorities, have begun to emphasize non-military projects," he said. "Overall, California's dependence on defense is only half its level in the late 1960s, and contractors like Rockwell International have been reducing their reliance on defense projects in recent years."
In a related move, Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Sacramento) said a bipartisan group of lawmakers is sponsoring a conference in Sacramento on May 11 to assess the impact of defense cuts in the state. Representatives of business, industry, labor, academia and government are expected to participate.