From some parts of Southern California, long a stronghold for military installations and employers who do business with the military, cheers went up when President Trump talked of reinvesting in the nation’s defense in his Tuesday night address to Congress.
Trump had already called this week for a $54 billion increase in military spending.
And, in Tuesday’s address, he vowed to give the military “the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.”
“I am sending the Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history,” Trump said in the joint address to both houses.
That was music to the ears of Tom Freeman, former defense commissioner for Riverside County.
“President Trump’s military spending proposal is on target,” Freeman said. “Our Navy counts ships wrapped in plastic as ready. Our Air Force flies planes that average 30 years old.”
And he said the nation’s tanks are three and a half decades old.
“You have extremely old war-fighting equipment that is worn out,” he said. “We can’t defend our country without a massive defense buildup something akin to the Reagan buildup in the 80s.”
Freeman said the region also stands to benefit from job creation.
He said right now about 900 businesses in Riverside County and 900 businesses in San Bernardino County depend on defense contracts, and together they employ about 40,000 people.
Freeman said defense contracts annually total about $20 billion in Los Angeles County, $3 billion in Orange County, and about $1 billion each in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation estimates that L.A. County has about 56,000 jobs in the aerospace and defense industry.
That’s not to say that $54 billion alone will make everything new.
“Actually, it’s not going to cover what we need,” Freeman said. “But it’s a start. It’s a down payment.”
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