From Choose Washington 2023-2024

Fortress Pacific Northwest

Military & Defense
The Integrator Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft from defense contractor Insitu is built for ship-based surveillance missions.
Photo courtesy of Insitu

by Mark Arend

on’t mess with Washington. It’s bristling with military installations, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the biggest joint base west of the Rocky Mountains. It’s home to the U.S. Army’s I Corps and 7th Infantry Division, the Air Force’s 62nd Airlift Wing and Special Operations Command (Airborne) among other tenants. Other installations include the 12,000-acre Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, naval air stations in Everett and Whidbey Island and Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane. The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, established in 1891, employs more than 14,000. 

Washington is home to more than 55,100 active-duty military personnel, more than 90,000 of their dependents and more than 11,300 reservists. According to a Department of Defense report on defense spending by state in Fiscal Year 2022, Washington ranked 11th with $14.6 billion spent in the state, or 2% of state GDP. Two-thirds of that, or 67%, went to supplies and equipment, followed by service at 27%, research and development and construction at 4% and 3% respectively. The Navy and Marines were the biggest recipients of federal defense spending, at 45%, followed by the Army at 40% and the Air Force at 11%.

Half the federal spending in Washington, or $7.4 billion, went to personnel, including active duty, National Guard, reservists and civilians. The bulk of that went to workers in Pierce County, where about 45,000 workers are based, followed by Kitsap and Island Counties. King County took the lion’s share of total defense contract spending, at $4.9 billion. Boeing got most of that — $4.1 billion — but other defense contractors also benefited. Seattle-based Pacific Medical Centers, for example, won $177.5 million in defense spending.

Vigorous Contractors

Military contractor Insitu, based in Bingen, Washington, unveiled in March its Integrator Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft that launches and lands on ships or land. Surveillance missions from ships are among its intended uses. In March, Insitu set a company long duration record when the Integrator flew for 25.5 hours.

Vigor, a Titan company, does work for the Navy and Coast Guard at several locations, including its Harbor Island shipyard in Seattle, where it recently completed a three-year modernization assignment on the USS Chosin, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser based at Naval Station Everett. 

“Vigor’s completion of USS Chosin in Seattle represents an incredible success for our skilled workers and the hundreds of people who worked on this project over the last three years,” said Adam Beck, EVP of Ship Repair for Vigor, in a March press release. “Vigor employees and our many partners managed this very complex project through the COVID-19 pandemic, ultimately returning the ship to the U.S. Navy to continue its service to our nation. We are proud to support the U.S. Navy, and those who made this success possible.

“This project was not only important to the Navy and our national defense, it also supported more than 600 family-wage jobs at the Harbor Island shipyard,” Beck added. “It has allowed Vigor to grow the skilled workforce necessary to maintain readiness of the U.S. Naval Fleet and supported the local economy.”

Vigor is working on two additional U.S. Navy ships at the 27-acre facility, the USS Cape St. George and the USS John Paul Jones. Harbor Island is home to three drydocks, 12 cranes, six piers and 170,000 sq. ft. of shipbuilding and repair space. 

Mark Arend
Editor Emeritus of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend is editor emeritus of Site Selection, and previously served as editor in chief from 2001 to 2023. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


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