Military news a mixed bag for Washington’s economy | Don Brunell

Washington has major bases and military suppliers such as Boeing.


Washington has major bases and military suppliers such as Boeing. They contribute more than $13 billion to our economy ? about 4 percent of total GDP. A July 2012 study by George Mason University projected that sequestration could cost our state 41,000 military-related jobs. The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan will also have an impact.

According to Defense News, sequestration will cut $15.8 billion from the Pentagon’s 2013 budget and another $37 billion in cuts to defense contractors, including The Boeing Company.

While Boeing’s major focus in Washington state is commercial aircraft production, the company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of military aircraft with $33 billion in sales and 59,000 employees worldwide. That section of Boeing’s business is under pressure. The Navy has already announced an $18 million cut to its $1.3 billion program to buy 18 V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from Boeing and Bell Helicopter.

Even though this particular program is not located in our state, cuts to Boeing’s military contracts will compel the company to redouble its efforts to economize across the nation — including scrutinizing the operating and regulatory costs that color decisions on where to operate or expand both its commercial and military production lines.

Fortunately, one of Boeing’s major military contracts in Washington escaped the sequestration budget ax so far. The company’s $35 billion contract to produce 179 KC-46A aerial refueling tankers in Everett over the next 14 years has not been affected. In late June, Boeing workers in Everett loaded the first wing span for the first U.S. Air Force KC-46A, putting the company on track to meet its first delivery in 2016.

Unfortunately, Spokane’s Fairchild Air Force Base lost its bid to host the first 36 K-46A refueling tankers, a decision Gov. Inslee called, “extremely unfortunate.” However, U.S. Rep. Cathy Morris Rodgers, R-Spokane, is optimistic, noting that Spokane is still in the running to host future KC-46A tankers.

Reducing our military presence in the Mideast will directly impact jobs in Puget Sound. Joint Base Lewis-McChord will lose about 4,500 active-duty soldiers over the next few years, including deactivation of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. On the plus side, Lewis-McChord will continue its role as the Army’s West Coast force projection base.

Reductions in Washington’s military presence create a ripple effect throughout our state’s economy.

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, an Army study released earlier in the year suggested a reduction of 8,000 soldiers from Lewis-McChord would cause more than 20,100 military family members to leave the Puget Sound area, prompting the loss of more than 10,000 military contract and private-sector jobs.

One positive note, Pentagon officials have indicated that, as the U.S. withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan, it may shift more of its resources to the West Coast as the focus shifts to the Asia-Pacific region.

The state is also shifting its bureaucratic focus. Acting on a Gregoire administration study recommendation, Gov. Inslee’s new budget creates the position of director of military affairs, a $300,000 allocation designed to help the governor’s office coordinate with state agencies and local communities on military issues.

Unfortunately, coordination alone is not enough.

For example, the governor’s comprehensive “Washington Aerospace Strategy” talks about the need to reduce federal regulatory burdens to ensure a competitive business environment. Hopefully, that includes addressing similar burdens at the state level.

Keeping military bases and contractors really is no different than keeping other employers. It largely depends on costs to operate, the desire to keep them here, and setting regulations that are reasonable and achievable.


About the Author

Don Brunell is the president of the Association of Washington Business. Formed in 1904, the Association of Washington Business is Washington’s oldest and largest statewide business association, and includes more than 8,000 members representing 700,000 employees. AWB serves as both the state’s chamber of commerce and the manufacturing and technology association. While its membership includes major employers like Boeing, Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser, 90 percent of AWB members employ fewer than 100 people. More than half of AWB’s members employ fewer than 10. For more about AWB, visit





More in Business

Streamlining regulations helps Americans compete

The cost of regulations is a key American competitiveness issue. It is a major reason our companies re-locate to other countries and our manufacturers and farmers have difficulties competing internationally.

Railroads implementing positive track

While the investigation continues into the deadly AMTRAK derailment near Dupont, the clock continues to tick on the implementation of Positive Track Control (PTC). The deadline is Dec. 31, 2018.

Keep the holiday spirit all year long | Don Brunell

During the holidays, our thoughts naturally turn to giving — not just giving gifts, but donating our time and money to charities, disasters and community programs.

Finding balance in occupational licensing

Recently, the Institute for Justice (Institute) determined state licensing barriers for lower-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs not only hurts people trying to establish themselves in a profession, but annually drives consumer prices up by $203 billion.

Remember 1993

Twenty-five years ago, business took a beating in Olympia. The swing to the left in the 1992 general election was swift and potent. It drove higher costs to employers and more government regulations.

Remembering Ed Carlson, Vietnam POW

Since last Veteran’s Day, Ken Burns’ in-depth documentary on the Vietnam War has aired. It is a powerful reminder of an unpopular war in which many “baby boomers” fought and died.

Rural prosperity essential to Washington

While Seattle is growing rapidly, our rural areas continue to struggle. They don’t have the corporate giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing creating jobs and economic opportunities. Farms are predominantly family-owned.

Amazon’s plan reminiscent Boeing’s Chicago move

Last year, Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates wrote about the similarities and differences between Boeing’s corporate office move to Chicago and Amazon’s plan for a second headquarters.

LiveLocal98022 meeting cancelled

Bob Green, the night’s speaker, notified the organization he couldn’t attend due to an illness.

Expanded Panama Canal among challenges for Washington Ports

The $5.4 billion spent to expand the Panama Canal is paying off for East Coast and Gulf of Mexico seaports; however, it is putting more pressure on the Northwest to remain competitive.

Players taking a knee hurting the NFL | Don Brunell

On a recent Saturday afternoon in Portland, a young woman stepped onto the playing field at the beginning of the University of Montana vs Portland State football game and started singing our national anthem. She immediately drew a blank on the words and briefly stopped, but as she started apologizing, the fans spontaneously took up the singing.

New metal collecting machine may clean up contaminated waters

There is a new machine being tested in Montana which could decontaminate toxic mine tailings while recovering valuable precious minerals for everyday use.