Highly skilled and dedicated West Virginia workers have always played an important role in arming America’s military – from the Harper’s Ferry rifle factory that was the target of John Brown’s historic 1859 raid, to the Kanawha Valley chemical industry spawned by World War I, to the dozens of Mountain State plants that produced the 1,001 things needed to fight and win World War II.
Today, this proud tradition continues, with West Virginia manufacturers providing our military forces the kind of sophisticated weaponry and technology they urgently need in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
West Virginia workers build key components for the high-flying Global Hawk unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle and a number of military aircraft, including the nation’s newest jet fighter, the F-22 Raptor. American troops in Iraq fired missiles with parts made in West Virginia. Lightweight composite materials developed and produced in West Virginia play an increasingly important role in aircraft and other military hardware. And no one will ever know the number of lives saved by military-issue life preservers and other survival gear made by West Virginians.
Since fiscal year 2010, budgeting for defense procurement accounts has left much ambiguity as to the future of multiple weapons system programs. In this time, total budget authority for DoD procurement has declined by $68.7 billion or 29 percent. Further complicating an already uncertain picture is the fact that the current DoD FY 2016 -19 budget plan calls for a total of $115 billion more than budget caps under the Budget Control Act. In an effort to define and prepare the WV Defense Industry for the coming spending cuts WVU and TechconnectWV have partnered along with the OEA to map the WV defense industry supply chain. To accomplish this the WVDIA has contracted the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness.
CREC is developing a statewide supply chain map of West Virginia’s defense and manufacturing industries that will serve defense manufacturers and communities in limiting the impact of defense-related spending cuts and identify new opportunities for economic diversification. The project includes identifying regional and sector-specific competitive advantages regarding DOD assets, and how these relate to broader industry cluster value systems. A survey will target founders, Presidents, and C-level executives of West Virginia defense contractors to engage participants on issues related to supply chain linkages and interdependencies, market expansion opportunities, operational practices, and needs for technical, informational, and other assistance. CREC will also develop web-based tools to communicate the findings from the mapping efforts.