The U.S. Senate is expected to vote this week on the National Defense Authorization Act. As MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, the bill has several items of keen interest to Mississippi.
The defense spending bill passed the House last week. Mississippi 3rd District Congressman Gregg Harper, along with fellow Republicans Alan Nunnelee and Steven Palazzo voted in favor; Democrat Bennie Thompson against.
Congressman Harper says the bill has some key provisions for the Magnolia State, including a delay of another round of base re-alignments and closures.
"We've survived those in the past," he says. "So this bars the Department of Defense from planning another round, which would be very detrimental potentially for certain Mississippi military bases.
This year’s bill also includes $800 million for a ship built in Pascagoula and some restrictions on the transfer of aircraft from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.
Pete Walley, an economic analyst with Mississippi’s Institutions of Higher Learning, says military spending contributed more than $11 billion to the state’s economy last year.
"Defense spending is important to Mississippi," he says. "First of all, it's good-paying jobs, and we need more good-paying jobs in Mississippi. As a percent of our total gross state product, in 1990 it was 14.7% and it's kind of been trending down. In the year 2013, it's down to 10.2%."
Walley notes the state’s GDP is growing, so the shrinking percentage reflects defense spending staying constant and he expects it to remain a major part of the state’s economy into the future.
"According to our ESMI Analyst, there are around 30,000 military personnel in the state, which support about another 30,000 jobs," says Chad Miller, an associate professor in the department of economic development and tourism at the University of Southern Mississippi. "This brings in about $2 billion a year into the Mississippi economy, and that's just the personnel - it doesn't include the defense contractors, aerospace companies, shipbuilding and so forth."
In a statement, senator Roger Wicker said he was optimistic the Senate would pass the bill this next week.