Military spending important to local defense community

Dayton Defense executive director talks about future of defense contractors in Miami Valley

In a proposed $4 trillion budget for the 2016 federal spending year, President Barack Obama recently called for a defense budget of $561 billion — a proposed spending increase that could provide relief to Ohio defense installations such as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the largest single-site employer in the state, and the Springfield Air National Guard Base.

Overall, Obama asked Congress to boost defense spending by $38 billion more than agreed to by Congress and the White House in 2011. The Air Force’s baseline budget would rise to $122.1 billion compared to an enacted budget of $108.7 billion this fiscal year.

The budget proposes a healthy increase in the scientific defense research — including a $2 billion increase in the Air Force’s research and technology budget — which could bode well for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and defense contractors surrounding the base.

Deborah Gross, executive director of Dayton Defense, spoke last week to the Dayton Daily News about the budget proposal, cyber warfare and the future of her association that represents more than 200 defense contractors in the region.

What is your reaction to the proposal to raise defense spending?

I think defense spending needs to be addressed by looking at our threats and the best way to make sure that we are safe including cyber-attacks. Just raising defense spending does not necessarily solve the problem. We need thoughtful spending in the right places. The idea is to give valuable solutions for much less cost.

What would lifting the sequestration mean for local defense contractors?

Sequestration needs to be lifted period. The sequestration process is not a sound plan and the uncertainly that comes with it puts a huge strain on all businesses. Our community is especially affected by sequestration due to the number of defense companies in the area.

What is the outlook for defense contractors in 2015?

The outlook is good, very good. We have immense talent in this area and I am optimistic about the future of this region, specifically the defense area. There will be a greater focus in cyber-safety.

What is the No. 1 goal for Dayton Defense?

Doing business with the government is complex and it is hard for companies to navigate through all the red tape. We’ve started using the technology program “Americas Voice” to help companies get connected using technology. It doesn’t make doing business with the government easy but it does save them a lot of time and energy. We have had some real success with that and hope to expand on it.

What is Dayton Defense’s focus for this coming year?

There is a lot of focus on cyber safety. This year will be our second year of running, “Cyber Dialogue with Industry” event that deals with cyber risk and security. We’ve all heard enough about Sony, but the reality is the risk to general safety is huge. We are putting a lot of focus into growing in that area.

Is the defense business community growing in the region?

Before the sequestration, we were growing at massive rates. During sequestration our membership and sponsorship has gone up. We have around 200 member companies which equates to many times more people. And not all are defense related companies. There are a lot of companies that provide goods and services important to the contractors. We’d like to see more of these companies introduced to the market.

Are you seeing job growth in the defense community?

Yes, I do think there is, especially in the field of cyber security and solutions. Manufacturing is still growing as well. Overall, the government needs solutions brought to them. There is a wealth of opportunity out there and we want to help companies understand how to do business with the government. I hope the government makes it easier than it is, but making changes to something of that size is not easy

What should the region know about the defense community?

We have the best scientists and engineers in this community, an outstanding workforce. We have amazing talent that understands the issues the department of defense faces coupled with a vast knowledge of technology. We have an amazing history in Dayton and I believe there are many shining stars ahead of us.

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