Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Barack Obama and Virginia Defense Spending Procurement: Independents Saying Your No Jim Webb

If there is one single issue in Virginia that is driving Independents and moderates away from Barack Obama it is simply the fact that based on Obama's own statements and plans with regard to Defense spending and the Military in general many voters are quickly realizing that Obama is not Jim Webb and may be wrong for Virginia's economy.

Veterans make up roughly 800K of the Virginia population and the biggest proponent behind the Commonwealth's economy is certainly the Defense industry. The fact remains that the largest portion of our economy is directly impacted by defense spending and authorizations by Congress. This is a major reason why many Independents felt relieved when Se. Jim Webb passed on the potential running mate slot with Barack Obama. Virginia will already lose a senior Armed Services Committee member in Sen. John Warner due to his retirement. We could ill offered to lose Webb in the Senate as well.

The facts are plain no mater how folks in Northern Virginia seek to twist and turn them. Obama's rhetoric on Defense and his plans are not adding up. In 2008, 56 billion defense dollars has resulted in Virginia being the largest per capita on defense spending in the country. Virginia employs 245K civilian, active and reserve members in the Department of Defense. Only the state of California employs more.

Currently, there is a battle brewing in Hamption Roads and Virginia Beach between Obama and Sen. John McCain for votes. Barack Obama is attempting to fight in traditionally pro-Republican areas for voters that his campaign feels may have become disillusioned by the last four years of deployments and strain upon military families in the region. There is no denying that such issues certainly exist, but the Obama campaign is betting on emotions rather than the economic realities of Virginia and in particular the Hampton Roads region.

Hampton Roads employs 59% of all Virginia defense-oriented workers. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have some 140K participating in both uniform and civilian roles there and one of Virginia's largest defense employers, Northrup Grumman's Virginia division brings 6.46 billion in contracts to bear upon the region through its divisions and as a result of its purchase in 2003 of Newport News Shipbuilding., which builds submarines and aircraft carriers. Of the 35K Grumman employees, 21K are located in Newport News.

Defense spending and the National Defense Authorizations by Congress result in Virginia being a direct benificiary of policy in Washington. The issue is how will defense policy be impacted should Barack Obama win the election in November. The fact remains one of the greatest sources of hope in our Virginia economy has been the defense industry since 9/11. Without such contributions there is very little to keep Virginia from being another Ohio or Michigan. Virginia has relied on these contracts to defense contractors and in fact it has been one area that has resulted in an increase in jobs within the economy as a whole.

So what are the reservations about Obama?

It is quite simple. Virginians who understand and grasp our economy remember the impacts of President Bill Clinton with regard to the military and defense appropriations. Clinton in dealing with cutting the budget was viewed by many as a moderate in dealing with spending. The problem was a majority of his cuts came in the defense arena.

From 1992 to 2000, 500,000 military personnel were dropped from the payrolls of the Department of Defense through the different service branches. Clinton also cut 50 billion in defense related spending as well. By 2000 the U.S. Navy saw a net loss of roughly 100 surface ships with no appropriations for replacements. The USAF saw a reduction of 30% of its force, the Marine Corps was cut by 22,000, and the U.S. Army lost 4 active divisions and 2 reserve component divisions due to the downsizing of the military.

If you recall a major issue in the 2000 Presidential Election was the Military's overall "readiness" standard. It is a fact that in 2000 12 of 20 of the Army schools of instruction; where soldiers gain their respective Military Occupation Specialties were given the lowest rating by command and 2 of the 10 Active Army Divisions received the same grade.

How does this relate to Barack Obama?

Obama is less a friend to the military than Clinton. Clinton while downsizing the Federal payrolls by 305,000 jobs did so by cutting 286,000 of that number related to the military and defense. It is of course one of the largest areas of the Federal budget and rightfully so if you are a big supporter of the U.S. Constitution. There has been some arguement that Obama will not replicate this given the current foriegn policy quagmire left by the Bush administration, but one has to remember that Clinton continued such reductions throughout deployments in Somalia (1993), Haiti(1994), Bosnia (1996) and Iraq/Kuwait (1998).

Should there be concern Barack Obama will do the same? You bet.

Obama has set forth many plans; heathcare, education, economy, energy but the only thing he has pointed to to pay for all these measures is raising the tax rates on individuals making in excess of 250,000. I fairness, Obama claims he will seek a tax cut for the middle class and if successful the only thing he will be able to do to meet all the financial demands of his plans is cut spending. And where do you think he will start?

How do we know he will cut Defense-related spending? Well, his own words are a start;

"I will cut missile defense systems"
"I will not weaponize space"
"I will slow the development of future combat systems"
"I will not develop new nuclear weapons"

These are Barack Obama's words. He also plans to reduce defense R&D in the budget as well.

Before the likes of Raising Kaine and Cobalt 6 cry foul, here is the exact video by the Obama campaign:


So why would Independents who supported Jim Webb in 2006 feel compelled to support John McCain. Simple. Webb is more like John Warner on defense and as a previous Secretary of the Navy has a firm grasp on the requirements necessary and has a vested interet in protecting Virginia's economy. Obama does not.

In short, Barack Obama is no Jim Webb.

In fact, if you look at the 2005 BRAC (base Realignment & Closure) process you will find that Ft. Monroe was ordered to be closed by 2011. This a net loss of 3,300 direct jobs in the Hampton Roads region and another estimated 1,000 jobs indirectly related to the base in the community. In fact, Naval Air Station Oceana near Virginia Beach was also recommended to be closed but was saved thankfully. It may not be so lucky the next time round of cuts that Democrats in Congress support along with Barack Obama's cuts in defense spending. Oceana employs roughly 10,000.

Jim Webb will have to fight for Oceana for us because most likely Mark Warner or Jim Gilmore will certainly not get a high ranking committee position as a freshman without some real assistance. Virginia had better hope that should Warner win he gets something for his speech at the Convention for supporting Obama by fellow Democrats in the Senate.

So while I am certain that there are many Virginians who have been under strain during these deployments and fighting the War on terrorism, I just cannot see them supporting Barack Obama given the regions utter dependence on defense spending and the military. The case has to be made to these voters in regard to Virginia's economy, which has stood better than most States because of the Defense industry.

We can only look to Barack Obama's record in the Senate;

National Defense Authorizations (S1042) NO
Emergency Defense Supplemental S240 NO
Nation Defense Authorization 2008 HR1585 NV
Military Commission Act S3930 NO
Funding for Operations Iraq/Afghanistan NV

Republicans like Thelma Drake from the region should be making the case on behalf of John McCain for her region that a vote for Barack Obama would be a net loss for the region in terms of jobs and economic vitality. If she has any belief in her own career preservation she had better get on it because you can bet that the Democrats in her region will blame her and not Obama for any further bases being closed or any defense cuts made by Congress.

So when we talk "Economy Stupid", lets make sure we put it into the context of whats best for Virginia as well. I would not expect that you will see the media do this for you. We are already facing a budget shortfall in Virginia and any reduction in defense appropriations will result in lost jobs and revenues for Virginia and could certainly create major concerns for our own economy.

So while thousands of young Virginians may be taken with Barack Obama, there comes a point where in reality they are really casting a vote on Virginia's economy for the coming years. There is a reason why Virginia has voted Republican for President for the last thirty plus years and the Defense industry, Military, and Defense spending has a lot to do with it.


Anonymous said...

This is one of your better posts. I wish that the media would follow suit and actaully perform some civic responsibility in this election and not simply keep playing these games with the ads run by campaigns.

I just do not understand why a newspaper like the Times-Dispatch would not break this all down about exactly what each of these guys will do to defense and the military.

I would also like the media to stop referring us to factcheck.org and the like. I thought the media was supposed to be an objective party in all this. You know you are being mislead when news agencies tell people to search out reliable sources, non-partisan, for information.

I would love to see a candid discussion in the Times-Dispatch about Virginia's economy in an Obama and McCain administration based on what these two are planning to do.

I would also like someone to spell out exactly how Obama will be able to increase spending for universal heathcare and energy and still be able to provide tax cuts to people given all these recent bailouts by the Congress.

Anonymous said...

Words matter!!

If I were the McCain camp I would simply take that video and run a directed ad against Obama in Virginia backed up with the backstory of Clinton's measures while he was in Washington.

I know that we should not be selfish in these matters, but Obama could potentially crush our fragile economy with cuts in spending.

By the way, how many defense lobbyists live in Virginia I wonder given the billions in benefits we get.

Does not Gov. Kaine have someone dedicated to this endeavor regarding commerce and defense. A liasion of sorts. Just asking.

James S. said...

Why is the GOP or 527's no using this video?

This is fertile ground for a frontal assualt to put him on the defensive to justify his economic plan.

Obama has sent a message directly to Virginia that he plans to cut about 1/3 of the Virginia economy.

Do we know what Obama's opinion or Biden's view on the BRAC recommendation were in 2005?

Bill Garnett said...

It may not seem so, but world warfare has been in decline for decades. Globalization and technology is working to increase worldwide connections – and perhaps empathy and understanding. And the nature of both war and imminent threats has changed such that the military budget might well change to keep pace.

That change may long-term not favor Virginia in any event. It’s time we prepared and diversified our state economy, and take a stake in the new technologies and new economies that could offer good jobs to those leaving the military or who are caught up in a future military downsizing.

We will have new ways of projecting power in the future – and that may or may not present opportunities or threats to the large military constituency in the Hampton Roads area. Asymmetric warfare may require more technology, specialized troops, but fewer troops – and may operate with a significantly smaller budget.

Entitlement programs and the military are the two dead weights in the federal budget (not “ear marks” which are a relatively small part of the federal budget). And our balance of payments, national debt, and continuing deficits will put increasing pressure on dealing with both entitlements and the military budget.

Bottom line – the military industry in Virginia may have some analogy with the automotive industry in Michigan – not good to have too many eggs in one basket. (And my experience with typical military types is that they have little interest in either politics or economics – my guess is they will vote for Palin because she is a hot chick, not for McCain thinking he will protect their careers).

Timothy Raugh said...

Frankly I do not think I have ever read such utter bullshit anywhere this cycle than the comments by Bill Garnett.

It is obvious that Mr. Garnett has no real grasp of the amount of jobs and industries that make up the defense industry. These companies are not just military firms. Would you call Boeing merely a defense contractor in the aeronautical field? I think not.

The notion that world is moving into an era not requiring such spending on military defense if absurd. This is typical Clintonian ideology. I wonder if Mr. Garnett has an idea why it was that Rangers where on the ground in Somalia in the first place and why we were unprepared for urban warfare in Iraq. The training for such missions was cut due to lack of funding by way of defense cuts in the military in the budget by Clinton.

It never ceases to amaze me how the justification process works in the left America. Are they really that anti-corporations, which correlate to jobs in this country. The blame the GOP and BUsh for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and yet they were formed by Democrats under Clinton and run by those who previously served in Clintons White House. In fact the head of one of them was head of Barack Obama's search committee and in fact both have contributed heavily to Obama. How heavy?

Try that the only politician in Congress to get more money from Fannie Mae & Freedie Mac than Obama is Christopher Dodd. So much for the lobbying arguement Barack.

As stated in the post, I suggest that Mr. Garnett call upon the Heritage Foundation to get a free copy of the Constitution. For the common Defense sir! Defense is the primary role of the national government.

I suspect that Mr. Garnett supports universal healthcare with the bill flipped by taxpayer system which is no where in the Constitution. I suspect is perfectly happy with a liberal union controlled public educational system as well and yet would not stand in the way of having a catastrophic collapse of the Virginia economy by having reductions in defense spending come home to roost. I imagine Mr. Garnett supports all the base closings throughout the country with no job created in those communities for all those impacted.

And yet, I imagine Mr. Garnett has no problem with the expansion of Fort Lee near Richmond at some other communities expense.

Let get to the truth. Liberal did not support or endorse the role of the military and never have. Most liberals stood in direct defiance to the government and Vietnam frankly so why should we be surprised that in modern times they are oppossed to anyhting of the sort related to the military.

They care more about our appearance in the world or standing then thye do the underlying jobs that the defense and military provide.

The funny thing is, the military at times is the bastion for employment for high school graduates and non-graduates now that are a direct result of a failed liberal educational system. Reduce the military and take those jobs away and what have these individuals have left but a welfare state that these liberals endorse anyway. Its a keen to slavery, zero opportunities and making these young people beholden to a government for their welfare.

Mr. Garnett's liberal drum keeps marching. The problem is its no longer beating the Battle Hymm of the Republic.

Alter of Freedom said...

Wow Bill, your response on this issue surprises me.

I will refrain from traveling down the road along the lines of liberalism but in the case it is almost an advocation to economic ruin for the State economy.

I will not attack you for your view, but whom I will challenge is Obama on these issues.

Obama and Biden may certianly be influenced by such views as yours however, in that we both know that they will be cutting defense substanially and they are completely keeping Virginia and America in the dark about it.

Thats not change.

I have no problem if presented with the facts regarding what they intend to do to defense spending as a means of addressing the failed budget policy it may take over in January voters choose Obama. Thats democracy.

What i have a problem with is Obama traveling the country stating he use tax revenues from those 250,000 or more to pay for all his plans when given the current state of the budget in order for him to even remotely be able to meet the obligations that such plans would require he will have to cut defense which accounts for roughly 42% of the budget by all estimations. He should be honest with the people of Virginia about what he intends to do. If if feels that cutting spending in defense and potentially impacting Virginia's overall economy is worth doing so so that he can afford to pay for his programs like universal healthcare for the nation than he should make the case for it. If they reject the notion than so be it as well.

The problem is he is not addressing the issue and is simply misleading Virginians regarding his plans with defense. if he is so passionate about bringing about his programs than maybe he should run the risk of losing Virgini'a delegates by being honest with the voters and campaign to win electoral votes in other areas of the country to win the election.

Instead, Obama is behaving nothing more than any other career politician and will say and do anyhting to garner votes.

I submit that if Obama and Biden wish to hand over the Commonwealth back to Republicans in the coming years then by all means move forward with cutting defense appropriations to the various defense contractors employing Virginians.

It would seem to me if you wanted to re-ignite the economy and create jobs the first place one should start is the defense industry and the energy sector.

Instead, Obama feels that increasing the rolls and salaries of teachers is the means to solving our education crisis as pointed out above in the comments whereas he should be funding for technical professions, engineering, computer science and other specialties geared around defense that are a better answer.

I would be intertested in learning just where all the new jobs will be once these cuts happen in defense and these companies are forced to downsize at the same time the same leaders want to reduce our dependence on coal related products within their energy plan. Tghis would mean there would be a systemic impact in both SW Virginia and the Hampton Roads Region at the same time contributing to a massive unemployment rate on the horizon given there will be very bfew jobs or funding for retraining for these Virginians to go to.

Well, I guess Walmart could still be hiring and expanding in 2010.

Jim said...

The views expressed by Bill Garnett are very typical of the NOVA elite who care very little for the results of their policies as long as they win out in the end.

While I do see James Webb fighting for the interests of Virginians and taking over th role that Senator John Warner has held for us it will be difficult to override the liberal wing of the Party should Democrats control Congress outright after the election.

I do thionk that this issue will be a deal breaker for Virginians. With our issues in Richmond we can ill afford to have another crisis that could hurt of economy. These liberals want to hide behind smoke and mirrors regarding the housing crisis and act like they are not in any way responsible. They fail to admit the role they had in the formation of Fannie/Freddie in the first place under the Clintons andnow blame Republicans for lack of oversight.

Someone tell just where the Congress has been since 2006? Did not the Democrats win control of the House and Senate and declared change would be coming. It seems to me all they have done is do everything they could to pave the way for their nominee and the country be damed.

They sat on their hands regarding the mortgage crisis and let Fannie/Freddie go about their business with no controls. I hope Dodd, Charlie Rangel, Chuck Schumer and Barney Franks are all happy with themselves. For two years they have allowed this country to fall into economic turmoil in lending and energy and still sit there smug and blame Bush/Cheney.

Look I have taken issue with this war in Iraq, but we voted for Democrats like Webb to change things, especially the war and they have failed. They have failed to oversee any checks and balances and after two years have very little accomplishment.

John McCain needs to stress this defense thing as well as launch an assualt on Congress. He should not wait for the election results to make these porkbellies famous with regard to spending.

I agree with the comment about the Constitution. Just like Ron Paul, whom my children support for President, has expressed that our government is going well beyond any intent of our framers of the Constitution. All these bailouts at taxpayer expense is simply just another transfer of wealth (ours) to big business.

My 401K is crashing, who do I see about a bailout or bridge loan for my retirement.

Bill Garnett said...

Timothy Raugh,

One advantage of old age is that I’m far less intimidated by such bluster and posturing nor shaken in my belief in my own patriotism by your personal attacks. We have different perspectives. I at least try and understand yours.

And it is difficult to have a conversation with someone who screams with his pen. I know I don’t have all the answers. Perhaps that is the real difference between us.

Alter – I appreciate your considerate and tempered voice. I find much that I like and much that I don’t both with Obama and with McCain. And I hope you are not reading that I propose any change to the military component of Virginia’s economy. I am just looking at a longer time horizon. The trend as many scholars have shown is that as uneven as history is, there is strong argument showing the decline of traditional wars and perhaps this long term view is outside of our life span, It is a scenario of the future that makes some sense. Globalization is a real sea change. Global warming is a real sea change. Worldwide access to information and ideas cheaply and rather universally is a real sea change. And as human a characteristic as resistance to change is, progress is happening, change happens.

I communicate regularly with friends in Holland, Egypt, Finland, Venezuela, Brazil, Australia, Czech Republic Malaysia and Slovenia. I say this to contrast with growing up in Richmond where we had a party line phone and made a once a year long distance call to a family our family had stayed with in Fresco, California during WWII. I live in a different world at 65 than I did as a five year old in South Richmond. I spent years after grad school working in a small group that advised the executive committee of DuPont on future studies of technology and world change that this company needed to know to make long term plans. I’ve spent much of my life both noticing and studying the tectonic changes of history and the anticipations of the future.

I appreciate that few care to look back or look forward so much and I appreciate the pressures that keep most tied to the moment. I’ve tried to express in my comments a considered view admittedly steeped in my own experience.

Blogland is a rather unruly place that allows in the brawlers and the gentile, the hidden agendas and the inerrant believers. But I don’t suffer fools gladly. Simplistic stands against liberals, against the French, against the effete, against just about any foreign idea or convention only suggests to me the ignorance and bias of whomever is standing on the soap box at the moment.

We not only have the largest most powerful military ever. Our military budget by percentage of our GNP and in absolute terms is fully disproportionate to any enemy real or imagined. And before I am labeled a sniveling pansy lover, let me say that I defend the primary responsibility of the government to defend its people and its land. I am also not so naïve as to know what Eisenhower knew of the expected growth of an unrestrained military industrial complex.

I know enough of history to know that Clinton policy followed on from Bush I’s policy and was a natural and expected evolution from Reagan and the fall of the Soviets. I understand that about a third of our medical expense is administrative and that we are so smug as not to learn from other approaches to health care and so arrogant that we insist we are the best at everything.

I can see how a health care system became a health care industry, a criminal justice system became a criminal justice industry, and a national army becomes a military industrial complex. I also accept that as Pogo once said, “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us”.

I know that if we could wring out some of the 30% of health care cost that is administrative, we could use those talents to address other needs. If we could rationalize our civil and criminal litigation we could free up talent to solve other needs. If we improve the efficiency and effectiveness of education we would produce more and better talent to solve other needs. And if we can reduce our military budget in the face of the end of the cold war and a proper adjustment to today’s and tomorrow’s threats, we can release talent to solve other problems and needs.

To propose that my suggestions are unpatriotic or dangerous or un-American is false. As the bard said, "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves".

Anonymous said...

Barack Obama did not support the findings of BRAC back in 2005 for one reason and one reason only-

Rock Island Arsenal loctaed in his state of IL was originally on the list for closure.

Later of course we here in Virginia learn that Fort Monroe was added to the list and Rock Island was no longer on the chopping block.

John said...

I sent off a letter today tothe Congressional delegation to include Thelma Drake regarding this issue.

They should be out in force making sure that the district understands the potential impact of an Obama Presidency.

Republicans located there should be all over the local officials as well making them accountable for endorsements that may have been made in support of Obama.

Northrup Grumman has basically said that there is an anticipated reduction in workforce should the defense reductions materialize.

These are good, technical, and well paid jobs not some low wage retail job at a local mall that Chesterfield officials all too often point to as a growing work force.

There needs to be a line in the sand and where better a place than to make the stand than right here in Virginia.

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