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Security or subsidies: Mr. McDonnell and the Virginia delegation go to Washington September 28, 2010

Posted by Matthew Leatherman in Analysis.
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by Mariah Quinn and Matt Leatherman

Elected officials across the country know how closely their constituents’ job security affects their own.  Virginia’s congressional delegation and the administration in Richmond have lived richly, though, relishing an unemployment rate more than a quarter better than the national average (7% relative to 9.6%).  Indeed, certain parts of Virginia have unemployment rates harkening back to the pre-recession glory days – Arlington and Fairfax counties come in at an enviable 4.2% and 5.0%, for instance, while York County in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area looks similar, at 5.7%.

Fortune is running short even in these areas, though, after Secretary of Defense Robert Gates detailed the “Defense Efficiency Initiative” on August 9. With the stated aim of reducing the number of contractors by 10 percent per year for the next three years, more than 30,000 defense contracting jobs are on the chopping block, undercutting the boom towns just outside Washington where many of these jobs are located.  Gates’ decision to close the Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command, home to 2,800 military and civilian personnel and 3,300 contractors, means that similar pain is in store for Virginia’s coastal money makers as well.

Small wonder then that a rhetorical storm erupted in the state after Gates’ announcement.  Efficiency, it seems, might not be in Virginia’s best interest.

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