The USS Zumwalt passes downtown San Diego in September. Navy photo

San Diego’s economy is poised to gain from a military buildup focused on the Asia-Pacific region, with the number of Navy ships based here reaching a record 62 in 2019.

That was the forecast in the San Diego Military Advisory Council‘s annual report Thursday on the impact of the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard on the local economy.

“The coming years should be positive for the impact of defense spending on our region,” said economist Lynn Reaser, adding that this spending will act as “significant buffer” if problems develop in other parts of the local economy.

The 10th annual report by Reaser’s Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University measured $26 billion in direct spending, 340,000 jobs and an overall $50 billion economic impact from the military.

Reaser said the steady growth in Navy ships is especially significant. The number has increased from 49 in 2015 to 57 this year and will reach 62 in 2019.

She said San Diego now boasts a “military mega cluster” based on shipbuilding, military technology, health care, cybersecurity, construction and military-related travel that accounts for almost a quarter of the local economy.

“You could not replace San Diego’s contribution to our defense anywhere else in the country,” she said.

Dennis Kenneally, a retired Army major general who serves on the Governor’s Military Council, said he could envision over 70 ships based in San Diego because of the increasing strategic focus on China.

“San Diego in many ways is the anchor for our military’s ability to project its power in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

Reaser was flanked by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and top military officers in delivering the report at Navy Mine & Anti-Submarine Warfare Base in Point Loma.

“The military is one of the pillars of our regional economy, and we never take that for granted,” said Faulconer. “We are proud to be a military town.”

That sentiment was echoed by the officers, with Marine Brig. Gen. Kevin Kille praising San Diego’s welcoming environment because “personal and family readiness is integral to combat readiness.”

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Chris Jennewein

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