USS America arriving in San Diego
Sailors and Marines man the rails as the new USS America — first of its class — passes Naval Air Station North Island on its way to a new home port in San Diego. Navy photo

Defense-related jobs and spending continue to play a dominant and growing role in the San Diego economy, accounting 328,000 jobs and $45 billion in economic output.

That was the conclusion of the San Diego Military Advisory Council‘s 7th annual military impact study, released at a press conference Wednesday at the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare base in Pt. Loma.

“The military remains our number one most important economic sector in the county of San Diego,” said Dr. Lynn Reaser, who leads Point Loma Nazarene University’s Fermanian Business and Economic Institute, which produced the study.

Dr. Lynn Reaser
Dr. Lynn Reaser

But she also warned that with political gridlock over a new federal budget, and mandatory budget cuts, San Diego cannot take its position for granted. “Unfortunately, defense is bearing the burnt of many of these deficit reduction cuts,” she said.

The report found that defense-related employment increased by 6 percent and economic output by 17 percent in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015, compared to the 2014 fiscal year, though part of that growth was due to reclassification of military research activities.

Altogether, the military accounted for one-fifth of the region’s jobs and economic output.

“We are home to the largest concentration of the United States military in the world,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “It’s part of the fabric of who we are as a city and who we are as San Diegans.”

Other findings of the report include:

  • $24.8 billion in direct military spending — $7,700 for each resident of San Diego County
  • 57 Navy  Coast Guard ships are now based in San Diego, and that will grow to 84 by 2023 with the military’s pivot to the Pacific
  • Jobs created by defense spending include engineering, food services, retail sales, health care, education, real estate, shipbuilding and construction
  • Each aircraft carrier based here generates $700 million for the local economy

Brig. Gen. Edward Banta said the Marines now have a third of their combat power located in the San Diego area.

“Wit the re-balance to the Pacific, the region takes on an increased importance to the Marine Corps,” he said.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.