Utah ranks in the middle for defense spending

OGDEN — Ranking somewhere near the middle, Utah received a $3.3 billion piece of the Department of Defense’s nearly half-trillion-dollar spending pie in 2014. 

Utah ranked 33rd in total U.S. defense spending during fiscal year 2014, according to a new report from the DOD and the Office of Economic Adjustment.

The Beehive State ranked 23rd when adjusting for the percentage of a state’s total gross domestic product. Defense spending in the report is defined as federal government money that goes toward defense contracts and the Department of Defense employee payroll in a given state.

Showing little movement from last year, Utah ranked 30th and 20th for the respective categories in fiscal year 2013.

The state’s $3.3 billion in 2014 is 2.3 percent of Utah’s total GDP and 0.8 percent of the total DOD contracts and payroll budget. The total amounts to $1,122 spent per resident.

More than a third of Utah’s total defense allocation was spent in Davis County, with $1.2 billion funneling into the region. Salt Lake County ranked second, with $917.8 million. After Tooele and Utah counties, Weber County ranked fifth with $127.3 million. 

According to the report, Utah has 29,806 people employed by the DOD, with a total payroll of $1.5 billion. Civilians make up 47 percent of that workforce, with reservist and active-duty military members making up 41 percent and 13 percent, respectively. 

With nearly 17,000 employees, Hill makes up a huge portion of Utah’s total DOD workforce.

The DOD spent $1.8 billion on defense contracts in Utah in 2014, 44 percent of which were Air Force contracts.

Overall, the Pentagon spent $418 billion on contracts and payroll during 2014, a number that represents 2.4 percent of the United States’ GDP. The report said federal government spending on national defense has dropped dramatically since 2011, when the military began drawing down in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Budget Control Act was passed.

The report said defense spending is expected to decline 28 percent between 2011 and 2019, something Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah,said is dangerous.

“If we don’t have an adequate defense, we don’t have a foreign policy,” Bishop said. “Some people think we shouldn’t be in an arms race; well, guess what? Russia and China are, and they don’t care.”

Bishop blames much of the decrease in defense spending on the Obama administration, saying money for defense has been disproportionately cut while funding for nonessential programs that expand the scope of the government have increased. 

The congressman said defense spending has the ability to be an economic driver, particularly in Utah, with maintenance for new weapons systems like the F-35 and F-22 based at Hill.

Michael Sullivan, communications director for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said Utah’s Aerospace and Defense cluster, which is strongly tied to DOD spending, employs more than 21,000 private-sector employees with an average wage of $66,960 a year. 

But some say defense spending in the U.S. should be cut more.

An April 2015 report from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fixing America’s long-term fiscal challenges, said the U.S. “spends more on defense than the next 7 countries combined,” with almost 20 percent of all federal spending going to defense.

“The sheer size of the defense budget suggests that it should be part of any serious effort to address America’s long-term fiscal challenges,” the report said.

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