Virginia protests too much on defense cuts
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates's announcement of his plans to close the Norfolk-based U.S. Joint Forces Command, end or change the jobs of 6,100 and save $704 million a year, has brought howls of protest from Virginia's elected officials.
Gov. Bob McDonnell has held news conferences with U.S. Reps. Randy Forbes and Glenn Nye and Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim. U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb, both Democrats, have likewise protested.
The command's mission is to get members of the five armed services to work together. But, under growing pressure from conservatives about deficit spending and with midterm elections approaching, Gates is taking steps to blunt criticism of President Obama's real or imagined profligate spending besides trying to realign defense spending.
It seems, however, that parties from all sides are protesting too much. Ever since terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center and ran a jetliner into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, the Old Dominion has made huge gains in defense spending. The state already had been a huge recipient of federal defense dollars. The CIA, the Pentagon and myriad other defense agencies are here, along with the gigantic defense complex in Hampton Roads, cargo centers in Richmond and so on. With Northrop Grumman's Newport News Shipbuilding, the state is No. 2 after California in industrial defense spending.
But that's not all, as The Post pointed out after a two-year probe. Private contractors, especially in defense intelligence and high tech communication, have exploded on the scene after 9/11. The Virginia-based Defense Intelligence Agency has gone from 7,500 employees in 2002 to 16,500. The Defense Department can't even say how many private contractors it has, The Post reported.
On Monday, Gates also announced plans to gradually reduce the number of intelligence contractors.
Even so, the biggest beneficiary the post-9/11 largess is, and will continue to be, Northern Virginia, where new and highly secure information palaces such as Liberty Crossing near McLean house the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and a counter-terrorism operations center.
A flock of companies in NoVa provide sophisticated and secret services in places like Afghanistan and Iraq such as CACI (called by wags "Colonels, Admirals and Captains, Inc."), SAIC, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Abraxas. The state just snared the headquarters of Northrop Grumman from Los Angeles this year.
As a sop to Virginia, Gates has said he might increase spending by up to $2 billion for new ships built on the Peninsula. Whether they would be built by Northrop Grumman is up in the air since the firm has put its big shipyard in Newport News up for sale.
The point is that Virginia has been more than spoiled with defense toys and jobs since 9/11. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are approaching or have surpassed the length of the Vietnam conflict. New threats probably will remain asymmetrical, i.e. terrorists rather than battalions of Russian tanks or squadrons of their jet fighters. The level of defense spending that has so greatly benefited Virginia cannot be sustained.
Once again, it is so ironic that the politicians, especially Republicans, who are beating up on Obama for blowing out budgets, fight and scream when they face real cuts that will help achieve what they supposedly are after.
| August 10, 2010; 1:25 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax County, HotTopic, Local blog network, Prince William County, Va. Politics, Virginia, development, economy, guns, military
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