With cuts to military and defense spending appearing to become the new normal, Washington state officials are trying to figure out how to soften the blow to the thousands of people who could be affected by the drawdown.
The latest step in that came Thursday, when Gov. Jay Inslee’s office announced that the state will receive a $4.3 million federal grant to help offset anticipated losses of military spending. According to the press statement, the grant, which comes from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), will:
- Assess the state’s military and defense contracting footprint,
- Create a support system and strategy to reduce harm to regional businesses that rely heavily on defense and military spending,
- Offer support for technology transfers and the spin-off of DOD programs to the private sector,
- Help retrain and place laid-off defense employees in new jobs,
- Study how to grow the industry.
Kristine Reeves, director of the military and defense sector for the state Department of Commerce, says there are 1,500 companies doing defense work in Washington state. But the state doesn’t have a go-to list of which companies are doing what.
So, for example, if the DOD decided to cut the A-10 aircraft program — an idea proposed earlier this year — Reeves says the state wouldn’t immediately know what supplier companies would be hurt by the decision. And so the grant will help the state build out research on that.
“It’s going to take more than an intern and three months of research,” Reeves said.
The grant announcement comes less than a month after Inslee resurrected the Washington Military Alliance, which previously worked to keep the state’s military bases from closing. The military alliance — made up of economic development groups and industry associations, among others — will now help advise the governor and other state agencies on how to best prepare the state for the loss of military and defense spending.
Along with Thursday’s grant announcement, the alliance also announced it would contribute $500,000 toward the effort.
In 2012, the military industry in Washington accounted for 136,000 jobs and $15.7 billion in economic activity, according to the press statement.