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Opinion Pieces by Rob

Rob Wittman: Military Spending is Key to Virginia’s Economy

As vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I often get asked by my constituents why my work on the committee matters directly to Virginians. My answer is twofold: The work we do on HASC serves the large population of veterans, active-duty service members and their families throughout the commonwealth, and a strong national defense directly and indirectly fuels Virginia’s economy.

In Congress, as we work to craft a budget, we have a responsibility to protect taxpayer dollars, cut wasteful spending and ensure all dollars spent benefit our economy and communities. Fortunately, a robust defense budget is not only critical for our national defense, but also for our economy and workforce – especially in Virginia. All direct military spending has ripple effects across the entire commonwealth of Virginia’s economy. In fact, the total statewide economic impact of defense spending and industries within Virginia accounts for 19% of Virginia’s economy and supports over 870,000 jobs.

With the commonwealth ranking first in defense spending, the United States relies on Virginia to keep our defense industrial base alive and running. Virginia’s military installations employ over 250,000 full time-active duty, DOD civilian, National Guard and reserve personnel. Additionally, as home to over 780,000 veterans and military retirees, Virginia is uniquely positioned to serve as the focal point for focused federal, state and local lines of effort.

Virginia is home to the Pentagon, Marine Corps Base Quantico, major headquarters for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, the largest naval base in the world – Norfolk Naval Station – as well as a wide array of businesses that support the national defense industrial base. Not only does this provide the opportunity for the commonwealth to remain a leader in defense, but it also opens opportunities for jobs, strengthens our economy and cultivates innovative individuals within our communities.

It is no coincidence that Virginia is home to a wide array of businesses that support the national defense industrial base. Much of the value Virginia provides resides in the workforce: the capacity and capability of our workforce supports innovation, emerging technologies, manufacturing and development. For example, among others, the Department of Defense chose to locate the Defense Technical Information Center and Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in Virginia to work on developing research and engineering critical to national security.

Additionally, the recent groundbreaking of the Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center is an exciting opportunity for Virginia to be home to large-scale war games for the Marine Corps that will help the service visualize threat environments and adjust its strategy going forward in a rapidly evolving operational environment. Furthermore, many international companies recognize the capability the commonwealth presents for their operations. Of the top five aerospace and defense prime contracts, four have headquarters in Virginia.

Virginia is home to the talent required to support our national security and defense industry, and I am committed to developing our next generation to continue doing the same. Providing opportunities for students through Career and Technical Education, or CTE, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, programs to set students up for success after graduation remains a top priority of mine. Encouraging our students and educators across Virginia to get involved in today’s most pressing national security challenges only helps our nation. Cultivating forward thinkers in our higher education systems through programs like Hacking for Defense, or H4D, will also give students real-life, immersive opportunities that prepare them to tackle real-world problems in our national security scope.

If recent global events have taught us anything, it is that a strong national security and defense industry and a reliable economy are essential. In Virginia, these two come as a package deal. As vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I will continue to advocate for and grow our nation’s defense and provide additional economic opportunities for Virginia and our communities.

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