More Defense Cuts Plague Virginia

Special deliveryBy Peter Galuszka

Virginia continues to see painful military spending cuts in the aftermath of the years’- long U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the latest news is that the Army may cut 3,600 jobs at Ft. Lee, ironically the site of a recent and large expansion, by 2020. That could result in a decline of 9,000 residents near Petersburg which is close to  the base.

Plus, the Air Force plans on cutting 742 positions at its Air Combat Command headquarters at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton although some of the positions are already vacant and won’t be filled.

These are just some of the changes that are affecting Virginia, which is the No. 2 defense industry state after California. Many of the cuts involve active duty personnel whose vacancies are not being filled or are being asked to take early retirement.

Defense industry jobs are likewise taking cuts. A report by the National Association of Manufacturers states that in 2014, California will lose the most military-related jobs (148,400) followed by Virginia (114,900) and then Texas (109,000). Maryland will lose 40,200 jobs, the report says.

Many of the jobs are in heavy manufacturing, such as aerospace and ship building, and search and navigational services, but general business and other services will also be affected.

The news is especially hard on Petersburg and nearby Ft. Lee which just a few years ago enjoyed a major boost after a Base and Realignment and Closure round consolidated many multi-service logistics and supply functions. The influx of thousands of soldiers, contractors and their families boosted the city and surrounding areas.

Hampton, the location of Langley Air Force Base, doesn’t seem to be in store for such heavy impacts since the cuts involve some jobs already being lost to attrition. Other bases and areas hurt by the Air Force cuts include Washington, D.C.; San Antonio; Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Belleville, Illinois.

Newport News Shipbuilding, now owned by Huntington Ingalls Industries, could lose a deal to build one submarine and might delay another to build as Ford class nuclear attack carrier, if automatic defense budget cuts return in 2016. Another potential hit: refueling the nuclear-powered carrier George Washington but may mothball the ship if the budget cuts kick in. About 24,000 people work at Newport News Shipbuilding, making it the largest private employer in the state.

Besides the Washington area, Hampton Roads is greatly dependent upon defense spending. Some 47 percent of the regional economy depends on it. Anticipating more defense cuts, former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell formed a commission to come up with ideas before he left office this year. One of them is to be pro-active and recommend cuts of its liking before the federal government acts.

One of its recommendations cuts both ways on environmental issues. It recommends against offshore oil and gas drilling in watery areas where the military trains, thus making them available over the long term. It likewise recommends against wind turbines in the same areas.

These are interesting, but very difficult choices.

2 Responses to More Defense Cuts Plague Virginia

  1. Wow, it just goes from bad to worse. But no one should be surprised. We’ve seen this thing coming for years. The big question is: Can Virginia reinvent its economy?

  2. one of the interesting things is the claim that we spend “only” 5 or 6% of our GDP on “defense” but if you look closer at the numbers, you’ll see that first our GDP is about 15 trillion, then DOD is about 600 billion but these “rest” of “defense” is things like the VA, Homeland Security, NASA and DOE which total up to another 500 billion, so we’re spending about a trillion on “defense” if we truly county our total “defense” expenditures.

    but then things get even more serious when you consider that we take in only about 1.3 Trillion in general revenues – which is, if you think about it – about 10% of our GDP. So we’re spending about half of our available tax dollars on “defense”.

    Now the folks who actually appropriate money – KNOW THIS and that is WHY we are seeing “defense” cuts. The more sane in Congress KNOW that spending 1/2 of our total discretionary revenues on “defense” is – unsustainable and that’s WHY we are seeing “cuts” and WHY Virginia is going to feel some of the brunts of it.

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