Veteran aerospace and defense industry leaders in North Alabama do not anticipate drastic change for Redstone Arsenal as a result of changing leadership in Washington, according to a roundtable discussion with Yellowhammer News.
That seemed to be the consensus of corporate executives recently gathered on a Zoom call. Joining the call were Jeff Gronberg of deciBel Research, David Cook of Torch Technologies and Craig Naudain of SAIC. The call was arranged by Mike Ward, senior vice president for government and public affairs with the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce. These executives also play a role as volunteers in the chamber’ s community leadership.
The consensus from this conversation was that drastic changes are not expected. They said from a Department of Defense budget perspective, it would not be surprising if budgets could be flat or slightly reduced. From a Biden administration perspective, the jury remains out while officials try to balance the different aspects of DOD’s needs. But huge changes are not expected to take place. Several agreed that ensuring the viability and safety of the nation is not a partisan issue.
They pointed out this is not the first time the military has faced budget pressures. The Army has gone through this in the past, they noted, as recently as 2012-2013 when the United States was involved in conflicts on several fronts.
When viewing the Department of Defense budget, the executives point out it is largely broken into three areas – readiness, sustainability and modernization. Even when the nation was involved in a couple of wars, the modernization efforts kept pace, they said. If modernization remains a priority, then the impact won’t be devastating. They added a key factor is having the right balance of people in the room when those decisions are being made.
The executives also agreed there are two overwhelming threats currently facing the nation, one is internal and the other is external.
COVID is an internal threat that cannot be avoided, they said. Differing administrations will view these threats differently and will allocate resources differently based on their perspective. Bills are being considered to deal with COVID relief but one of the executives pointed out there is going to be a day of reckoning where it will be paid for, as well as other areas of the budget and the nation has to be prepared for that.
Then, of course, there are external and emerging threats to the United States that will not be going away anytime soon. Again, the group of executives say those external threats are really non-partisan issues. They pointed to national security threats from our adversaries – such as hypersonics, cybersecurity and space.
Programs at Redstone Arsenal are front and center at combating these threats. Reducing spending on these modernization efforts would create an even greater advantage for America’s enemies, the executives said.
There are six modernization priorities for the military. Several priorities are headquartered, or most of the work is carried out, through Redstone: Future Vertical Lift; Long-range Precision Air and Missile Defense; and Assured Position Navigation and Timing.
Some of the Army’s enabling systems and technologies are managed by the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, which serves to expedite critical capabilities to the field to meet combatant commanders’ needs. That office is under the direction of Army three-star Gen. Neil Thurgood.
One of the high points of the roundtable discussion was Alabama’s political strength when it comes to protecting the federal mission of the agencies on Redstone Arsenal. While acknowledging the change in leadership in Washington, the executives felt comfortable in that U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) will remain in office for at least a couple of years. There was agreement among all of the participants on the call that Sen. Shelby has an excellent reputation for helping develop what is good for the country. They acknowledge he works collaboratively with others from a federal spending perspective.
They also pointed to the influence of U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), who holds a key position on the U.S. House appropriations committee. They described him as always helpful and his role will become even more important when Sen. Shelby decides not to seek reelection after his current term.
The consensus of the small group also revolved around how well the community worked together from local government to industry. Most everyone is very supportive of the entire Alabama delegation. To hear one executive, “they are very well aligned with the priorities of what is taking place at Redstone.”
The closing remark of the 30-minute Zoom call touched on the community’s effectiveness in defending Redstone Arsenal. While the military is not in the position to be an advocate for the community, they always have opportunity to “grade our papers” on what is provided to Alabama’s congressional delegation.
“One of the keys to our community’s success is that everybody pulls in the same direction; whether it is industry, government or academia,” said Ward.
Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News.