|Biden and the military
No major shift expected in defense
How the new administration views the military is important for the region, but
the thinking is there will be no major changes in store for the I-10 region.
As inauguration day nears for president-elect Joe Biden, following a contentious
election and prolonged post-election legal entanglement, observers and insiders do
not expect to see any sort of dramatic shift that will impact the defense budget,
including the military aviation facilities and operations found along the DoD-heavy
corridor running from Louisiana to Florida.
There has been little or no growth in the military budget for the last several years, in
spite of attempts to increase it year after year.
Defensenews.com, reporting in October on the Trump and Biden stances on military
spending, said that while Biden didn’t foresee major U.S. defense cuts if he was
elected, he would face pressure from the left to make them.
Traditionally, no matter who the new occupant of the Oval Office turns out to be,
making a dramatic change in military budgets is as unwieldy as making a sharp turn
in an aircraft carrier. This transition is no different.
Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Teal Group, said he expected “a
pretty flat budget” and no major changes. “It is unlikely to see that much of a shift.”
Aboulafia added that the combination of a Republican-controlled Senate, which he
said seemed likely next year, and a Democratic administration has historically been
good for defense budgets, with both sides “trying to outdo each other, providing jobs
and supporting strong national defense.”
According to the legal news website Law360, U.S. defense budgets under Biden
“are expected to face increased pressure, with the expectation that Biden's initial
defense budgets will be no greater than flat compared to the current proposed
defense budget.” The 2021 defense budget is expected to be around $740 billion.
In the Gulf Coast region, with its military aviation-focused bases, particularly in
Florida and South Mississippi, payrolls and contracts will remain an economic driver
for the economy of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
Consider that there are 44 DoD properties between New Orleans and Panama City,
Fla., according to the FY 2018 Department of Defense Base Structure Report, that
have a combined replacement value of nearly $25 billion, a figure that includes the
bases themselves and associated annexes.
Of that total, the aviation-focused military bases had a combined replacement value
of more than $21.9 billion. The total rises over $1 billion with the addition of their
outlying fields and other aviation-related annexes.
Here’s a rundown by state:
There are 188 Department of Defense sites in the state, with all military branches
represented. DoD’s base structure report of 2018 lists four large sites, five medium
and 156 small sites, along with “other sites” that are primarily land with zero structure
replacement value. The DoD sites in Florida total 690,994 acres, with a replacement
value of $32.5 billion.
Northwest Florida is home to Naval Air Station Pensacola, headquarters of the Navy
Blue Angels flight demonstration team and technical aviation and training. It’s also
home to Naval Air Station Whiting Field, near Milton, where Navy and Coast Guard
aviators receive initial training. It’s also the home of Eglin Air Force Base, where the
Air Force trains pilots to fly the fifth-generation F-35 and aerial weapons systems are
developed. Hurlburt Field is home of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations
Command. And in Panama City there’s Tyndall Air Force Base, which was slammed
by Hurricane Michael and is now being rebuilt as a base of the future.
Mississippi has 99 military sites representing all branches of the service, along with
one large site, two medium, 89 small sites along with “other sites” that are primarily
land with zero structure replacement value. The DoD sites in Mississippi total
176,745 acres, with a replacement value of $8.4 billion. The figures do not include
the Navy’s large mission at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in coastal Hancock County.
The aviation-focused military bases in South Mississippi include Keesler Air Force
Base in Biloxi, home of the Air Force’s 81st Training Wing and its electronics training
programs that include cyber security. The base, one of the Air Force’s largest
technical schools, has graduated more than 2.2 million students since 1942. Some
20,000-25,000 students go through the system annually.
Alabama has 104 DoD sites, including three large, one medium, 72 small, along with
“other sites” that are primarily land with zero structure replacement value. The DoD
sites in Alabama total 166,800 acres, with a replacement value of $16.8 billion.
The aviation-focused military bases in South Alabama are led in value by Fort
Rucker, which was established during World War II and is the primary flight training
base for Army aviation. The largest base in Alabama, it is home to the Army Aviation
Center of Excellence and Army Aviation Museum. All Army aviation training has been
handled by Fort Rucker since 1973, as well as the training of Air Force and allied
helicopter pilots and air crew. The center of excellence is home to the U.S. Army
Aviation Technical Test Center, which conducts developmental aircraft testing.
Louisiana has 35 DoD sites and with two large sites, one medium and 25 small sites
along with “other sites” that are primarily land with zero structure replacement value.
DoD sites in Louisiana total 272,357 acres, valued at $9.3 billion.
Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in Belle Chasse is one of only
two joint reserve bases in the nation. It hosts the Louisiana Air National Guard 159th
Fighter Wing’s F15s, and a Coast Guard Air Station. The Army’s 377th Theater
Support Command, the 3rd Battalion 23rd Marine Infantry unit and attack helicopters
from Marine Air Group 42 are also housed at the base.
The value of each of these bases grows considerably with the inclusion of payrolls
for employees and retirees and the contracts that are awarded to local contracting
companies to perform work from basic maintenance to high level military programs.
Nearly 112,000 DoD contracts valued at more than $95.5 billion were awarded to
5,153 contractors between 2000 and 2017.
Small businesses in the region have a reason to be optimistic with the new Biden
Administration. As the Law360 site reported, “Small businesses are in a good
position to benefit from some of Biden's pronouncements that signal support for
aerospace and defense contractors.”
The site also notes that Biden has signaled his strong support “for unmanned aerial
systems and increasing cyber warfare, artificial intelligence and hypersonic missile
Several of the region’s military bases are involved in the field of cyber warfare.
Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, provides initial training and the Navy’s Corry
Station in Pensacola, Fla., provides further training in the field of information
At Corry Station, Fla., students receive technical training in cryptology, equipment
maintenance and communication, signal analysis and the operation and maintenance
of the technology required to conduct electronic warfare. Hurlburt Field provides
intermediate level cyber soldiers with schooling at a 17,000-square-foot building set
up for the Air Force’s 39th Information Operation Squadron. At Hurlburt, officers take
classes in military deception and operational security. Deception classes are offered
to operational level planners.
- Lisa Monti