Everyone knows that Alaska supports the military. But what is not always so clear is that the U.S. military returns the favor in a big way, supporting Alaska by spending an average of $4,446 per resident each year, contributing significantly to the state’s economy.
A recent publication from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment, “Defense Spending by State,” reports that our nation’s military establishment contributes $3.3 billion to the Alaska economy annually. Examining the details of this investment will help us all better understand and appreciate the contribution of the defense industry to the economic well-being of the Last Frontier.
The first thing to note is that military spending represents a full 6.1 percent of Alaska’s gross domestic product – the total value of all goods and services produced in a year.
That puts Alaska third-highest among all 50 states for the military’s share of the economy, behind only Virginia, at 11.2 percent, and Hawaii, at 9.8 percent. Even so, with the Pentagon spending $408 billion in federal FY 2015 in all 50 states, Alaska’s share is just 0.8 percent of the total domestic defense spending on payroll and contracts.
The majority of this Alaska spending – $2 billion – occurs in Anchorage, the home to 16,463 DoD-paid personnel. The military spends $879.0 million each year in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, where 9,571 are employed in the defense industry. Southeast Alaska sees $110.4 million and 332 jobs; the Denali Borough reports $101 million and 84 jobs. Including the 157 DOD employees in Nome, 151 in the North Slope, 147 in Kodiak, 104 in Bethel, 92 in the Yukon-Koyukuk, and 84 in the Mat-Su, a total of 27,764 uniformed and civilian defense Alaskans draw a paycheck from Uncle Sam.
Those cheering for the green team at the annual Army-Navy football game may be pleased to know that a full 41 percent of defense spending in Alaska goes to pay, supply, support and operate the U.S. Army. The Air Force claims 28 percent, the Navy and Marines account for 6 percent, and the remaining 28 percent represents non-service specific spending.
No matter what color uniform the money supports, the Pentagon’s Alaska expenditures is primarily dedicated to those serving on active duty, who account for 64 percent of the total. The civilian employees of DoD – those those sometimes unsung supporters of their uniformed comrades – see 19 percent of the spending, while the National Guard and Reserves are allocated 17 percent.
Alaska civilian businesses benefit directly from military spending as well, as military contracts support private corporations around the state. The top recipient of defense contracts in Alaska is the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which has contracts worth $244.8 million. Other top civilian contractors include Crowley Petroleum Distributors ($99.7 million), Doyon Utilities ($69.1 million), BAE Systems ($48.3 million), Chugach Alaska Corporation ($44.7 million), and Y-Tech ($43.7).
These numbers offer a somewhat dry view of the military’s purely economic contribution to the Alaska economy. But they show us little about how the presence of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilian defense employees in our state improves the quality of live in our communities, and allows us the privilege of contributing to the defense of the nation.
That is an amount far greater than mere dollars, and one that is tallied every day in the hearts of grateful Alaskans.
Editor’s Note: Representative Dan Saddler represents Chugiak-Eagle River and JBER in the Alaska House of Representatives, where he has served as co-chair of the Military and Veterans Affairs, and Joint Armed Services committees. He also serves on the National Conference of State Legislature’s Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs.