How will President Obama’s proposed defense cutbacks affect Virginia? It’s too early to say for sure but Bill Bartel with the Virginian-Pilot says there is reason to think Hampton Roads will fare well. The new strategy, he writes, cuts the Army and Marines but “puts a greater emphasis on mobile platforms such as Navy ships, smaller elite units such as SEALs, and more high-tech defense systems.”
The Pentagon stresses the need to protect access to the “global commons” of the world’s sea and air routes that are crucial to world commerce, which would require the maintenance of a strong Navy. Defense officials say they want to maintain 11 aircraft-carrier groups and ships that provide strong ballistic missile defense capability. A prominent role for Naval Station Norfolk would seem assured. One red flag, though, is the Pentagon’s strategic emphasis on countering China in the Far East. Might that necessitate the shifting of a carrier group from Norfolk to the Pacific?
Given the continued reliance upon special forces, the Navy SEALS base in Virginia Beach should remain intact.
Although Bartel did not address the impact on Northern Virginia, the Pentagon’s future emphasis on cyber warfare and computer network defense would seem to play to that region’s strengths in Information Technology. The Beltway Bandits may have to adapt, but they will find uses for their talents.
The implication of Bartels’ article is that traditional Army and Marine bases may suffer the biggest cutbacks. That may spell bad news for Quantico. While the defense cutbacks clearly do put Virginia’s economy at risk, there is reason to hope that the impact will be modest.