President Trump's Budget: Who Benefits?

May 29, 2017

When Donald Trump won the presidency many were curious to see who would be the big winners and the big losers. It looks like Alabama’s defense industry may do very well when the upcoming budget is hashed out.               

President Trump issued a preliminary budget a few weeks ago to avoid a government shutdown. The White House wanted to hike Pentagon spending by fifty four billion dollars. However, congress approved a version with less than half that number. Still, that skinny budget, as the early plan was called, made it clear. Trump loves the military. And, it looks like Alabama is going to get a good sized piece of that pie… 

“Huntsville and everything going on at Redstone Arsenal, to the Anniston Army Depot, to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery to Fort Rucker in Ozark and the great shipyard in Mobile…”

That’s Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne. And he’s in a good position to predict good times for the state’s defense industry. Byrne sits on the House Armed Services Committee. He says what’s good for those sites is good for Alabama…   

Credit wikipedia

            “All of which is tied to funding for the national military. So this significant increase the president is talking about will benefit each one of those areas and will be a huge plus for the economy of the state of Alabama.”

Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville employs over thirty five thousand people, Boeing has nearly three thousand employees in the area and Lockeed Martin is the 21st largest employer in the state and that doesn’t even include their suppliers. In South Alabama, Bryne says it’s the shipyards that are making an impact…

“These ships we make in Mobile can be distributed throughout the Pacific region in order for our commanders over there to have different weapons that they can use and distributed that to make it difficult for any adversary we have to defend against it.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne

          Byrne is talking about the Littoral class ships built by Austal USA. Austal is quickly becoming one of the go-to companies for building ships for the U.S. navy. Craig Percivalle is the President of Austal USA. He says they have been busy the past few years…

“In the last 7, 8 years we’ve delivered 12 U.S. navy ships. That’s pretty significant, I would think, when you look at how small a company we were basically in 2009 and now that we’ve delivered 12 ships since then is a testament to the team here, the employees and the state of Alabama.”

Austal USA builds the Littoral Class Ships that are becoming popular with the navy because of their ability to operate in shallow water and their adaptability…

‘The beauty of them is they are, relatively speaking, very large with very large flight decks and a significant amount of volume that allows the navy to reconfigure the ship as requirements change.”             

Percivalle says they currently have one of their littoral class ships, the U.S.S. Coronado, forward deployed in Singapore and by next year should have two more ships in the same area.

In order to have those ships and the cargo ships they build for the navy, they need employees, and Perciavalle says they have been growing since first opening shop in Mobile…    

U.S.S. Coronado
Credit wikipedia

            “Basically, in December of ’09 we had about 900 employees and now we’re over four thousand total.”  

Troy Wayman is the vice president of economic development for the Mobile area chamber of commerce. He says they are a benefit to the area…

“They have four thousand employees, that amount of dollars going back into our economy is phenomenal. Anytime you have an industry that employs four thousand employees, I think it’s say to say the impact is tremendous at least.”

He says it does more than put money back into the economy…

“If you consider what happens when they commission a ship here, the number of people it brings to our area, the light it shines on our area, we couldn’t pay for that kind of marketing.”

Wayman says the recognition goes beyond the region…

U.S.S. Coronado Commissioning
Credit U.S. Navy

           “Just the fact that the navy has to have a presence here to monitor the production of the ships, to put crews on the ships those sorts of things, not to mention, rare air that it puts us in on global scale.”

Another area where Alabama could possibly benefit from the president’s proposed budget is in dealing with veterans. President Trump’s budget calls for a nearly six percent increase to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The finance website Wallethub recently ranked Alabama as the 13th best state in the country for military veterans to retire. While the state scored well in economic environment for veterans, analyst Jill Gonzalez says it fell short when it came to health care…

“The number of VA health facilities to go around is pretty good here, but the quality is what could improve. Alabama ranked 44th out of all 50 states and D.C. just for that metric alone, that grade is 66 out of 100.”

However, before anyone can get their hopes up too high, Congressman Bradley Byrne has this word of caution…

“Presidents, Republican and Democrat, Congresses, Republican and Democrat go through this every year, what the president proposes and the congress passes are generally two different things. They may agree with him in large measure on some things and not at all on others, so it’s way too early to be able to predict what the impact will be.”