There’s even a “Military Accessory iPad Case.”
Defense-dependent firms such as Vanguard are thick on the ground in the commonwealth, from Northern Virginia — home of the Pentagon and myriad private contractors — to the Hampton Roads area, the site of the world’s largest naval station and several other bases.
That helps explain why the threat of huge defense cuts, scheduled to automatically take effect in January after the
congressional “supercommittee” couldn’t agree on a deficit-reduction deal last fall, makes local businesses so nervous and why the issue has become such a source of contention in the U.S. Senate race between George Allen (R) and Timothy M. Kaine (D).
“When the Department of Defense sneezes, we get a cold,” said Jack Hornbeck, president and chief executive of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. “Currently, about 40-plus percent of our economy is dependent on the Department of Defense. There isn’t much around here that wouldn’t be impacted economically by cuts.”
Allen has made attacking Kaine over the cuts a primary focus of his campaign message, criticizing the Democrat for backing the spending deal last year that set the cuts in motion. Kaine has fired back that most Republicans endorsed the deal, too, and that only he among the two has a substantive plan to avert what’s technically known as “sequestration.”
For all the near-term focus on the cuts, the two former governors also have decidedly different long-term approaches to defense issues.
Both have pledged to seek a seat on the Armed Services Committee, and they’d have big shoes to fill: The man they are running to succeed, Sen. James Webb (D), is a decorated Marine Corps veteran and a former Navy secretary who has become an influential voice on defense issues on Capitol Hill.
‘Scary’ cuts ahead
Few political issues have consumed as much oxygen in Virginia this year as sequestration, and it’s easy to see why.
A much-cited report from George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis estimates that the defense reductions alone could result in the loss of more than 130,000 jobs in Virginia.
(The non-defense cuts from sequestration could take an additional 70,000 jobs in the state.)
Industry representatives in Northern Virginia are especially concerned, including heavyweights such as Falls Church-based Northrop Grumman. Several contractors held a “Stop Sequestration Rally” in Crystal City during the summer.
Concerns about the cuts come as contractors are already significantly reshaping their businesses. Convinced that spending reductions will happen — regardless of whether sequestration occurs — local companies have in recent years laid off employees and revamped their structures. Northrop Grumman spun off its shipbuilding unit last year, while McLean-based Science Applications International announced in August that it plans to split into two companies.