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Rep. Rob Wittman column: The importance of national defense to Virginia
When it comes to the commonwealth of Virginia, national security is economic security. Our state is crucial to the mission and success of the U.S. military and our nation’s overall defense; in turn, defense spending makes up a fifth of our economy and is the largest, single driving factor in the economic prosperity of the commonwealth. As a focal point for our military, with 27 military bases representing each military branch, and the Pentagon — the U.S. Department of Defense headquarters — there is no state as critical to supporting our service members, our national defense and our overall global stability than Virginia.
Investment in the defense of the United States is crucial to not only keeping Americans safe, but also in the foundation and preparation of American security and strength to meet future challenges. Specifically, the United States is working to deter China’s malign behavior and overt aggression, and it is imperative that the Department of Defense and war fighters are in the best position to succeed in this campaign. It is our civilians supporting our sailors in Norfolk, the shipbuilders creating the platforms to project power in Newport News, the innovation happening in Dahlgren, the future planning and development taking place in Quantico, and so much more all across our state that puts our war fighters in the best position possible. On top of this, our defense industrial base and our service members in Virginia are supported by some of the hardest-working people in the country — our contractors and federal employees.
The importance of defense spending goes beyond security — investing in defense directly impacts Virginia’s economy by providing hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in expenditures. Defense spending directly accounts for 19% of the economy in the commonwealth. In 2018, total defense spending in Virginia was $84.1 billion — with a $103.7 billion impact — and it supported more than 885,220 jobs throughout the commonwealth. The numbers speak for themselves. Virginia’s contributions to our nation’s defense fundamentally intersects with Virginia’s economy — it is the lifeblood that keeps us moving forward, the backbone of our commonwealth.
More important than military assets, Virginia is home to the men and women who currently serve and previously served in uniform. One of my most distinct honors of serving in Congress is standing up for those who dedicate their lives to serving their fellow Americans. I take great pride in fighting to make sure our service members have the tools they need to succeed on the battlefield, but also at home through family support programs, professional training and crucial medical facilities. A fundamental way to guarantee these important items for our service members is through proper and sufficient funding.
This past Congress, I was proud to support the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which includes key military funding that directly will support Virginia’s 1st Congressional District and the commonwealth at large. Not only does this legislation provide proper funding to our military community, it also works to allocate the funding in a fiscally responsible manner. For example, this act supports my legislation, House Resolution 7195, included in the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to bundle the acquisition of amphibious ships, which will save the taxpayers roughly $1 billion. Additionally, the Consolidated Appropriations Act provides funding for major programs such as the Virginia-class and Columbia-class submarine, and a 3% pay raise for our service members, which greatly will boost the economy in Virginia.
One of the many lessons we have learned in the past year is the importance of preparation and resiliency when met with unexpected challenges. Funding our national defense is a critical way to ensure that these unexpected challenges will be met with aggression and readiness to build a stronger America.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee since I came to Congress in 2007, and now serving as the vice ranking member of the committee, I have worked to ensure we bring the capabilities of our Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard closer to meeting the reality of the threats facing the U.S. and to project power around the globe to deter our adversaries. I am beyond proud of the work our state does in supporting our national defense and overall global stability. I have been, and I will continue to be, an outspoken advocate for proper defense funding for the United States, especially in Virginia. In Virginia, national security is economic security.