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New data shows Virginia's military industrial complex is booming

Russia Ukraine War
Evgeniy Maloletka
Ukrainian servicemen drive atop a self-propelled artillery vehicle in the recently retaken area of Dolyna, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022.

The war in Ukraine is creating a humanitarian crisis in Europe. But it's also creating demand for defense industries in Virginia.

New orders for defense capital goods are steadily increasing according to new numbers from the Census Bureau – an indication that the war in Ukraine is leading to booming business for Virginia's military industrial complex.

Jeff Shockley at Virginia Commonwealth University says Virginia presents unbeatable competitive advantages: access to Washington D.C. and proximity to the central logistics command at Fort Lee south of Richmond.

"The supply chain center of military operations in the United States is right down here in Fort Lee, Virginia. I can't imagine that the importance of that is going to diminish," says Shockley. "So as we become more technology focused in the military and we focus on more advanced weaponry and on personnel training – I think Virginia is uniquely positioned and favorably positioned to take advantage of that."

Michael Farren at George Mason University's Mercatus Center says the spike in new orders for defense capital goods over the summer is likely a spillover from Russia's war in Ukraine.

"One area that Virginia could be seeing the effect of this is at the Army Ammunition Manufacturing Plant near Radford, which specializes in propellant for shells and for missiles," Farren says. "And we've sent a lot of 155 millimeter artillery shells to Ukraine."

As long as Russia's invasion of Ukraine drags on, he says, the military contractors in Virginia and beyond will continue to see high demand for the weapons of war.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.