New Tool Seeks to Show Impacts of Defense Spending in Virginia

Jul 3, 2018

Credit David B. Gleason / Creative Commons

Between 2012 and 2017, defense spending in Virginia fell 20%. This year, however, the Pentagon’s budget is up, and just in time the state has introduced a website where communities can find out what that means for them.

Just under five percent of this state’s economy is dependent on defense department spending. That might not seem like much, but when you look at numbers of employees, it’s astonishing.

“5,267 software developers are dependent on defense contracts, and that’s 15% of all software developers in the state,” says economist Chris Chmura, whose firm helped develop a computer model to calculate the impact of defense department cuts and increased spending.

“If we learned that, for example, more ships were awarded, we can put that number in, and the model will tell us how many more people will be employed because of that, what sectors they will work in and what skills they will have,” she explains.

Mike Coleman is with the state’s department of Veterans and Defense Affairs.  The new model, he says, will help cities and counties plan their economic development and job training programs while protecting small suppliers that could go out of business if a contract is lost. 

“It’s important that all of these small defense contractors are recognized and those that are critical to the supply chain are protected so that when defense spending goes back up, we haven’t lost a significant resource,” he says.

Coleman cites the example of a Virginia firm that made tents.

“Introduce them to international markets, and all of a sudden they’re producing tents for foreign markets.”

The Department of Defense paid to develop the new model which is free to anyone who’d like to use it, and its inspired similar tools in more than a dozen other states.