Stabenow: Michigan powers the Arsenal of Democracy

Debbie Stabenow

Many people know about Michigan’s global leadership in manufacturing automobiles. They know about Michigan’s Great Lakes and all the crops and livestock that come from Michigan farms.

But many don’t know that one of the pillars of our state’s economy is the defense industry, which has an impact of $9 billion and supports over 105,000 jobs.

Today at the Mackinac Policy Conference, I will discuss the enormous impact our defense resources have around the state — and the role they play around the world.

I’m looking forward to sharing what I learned last year, when I worked with Congressman Fred Upton, the senior Republican in our delegation, to lead our Michigan Members of Congress on a series of strategic meetings at our state’s military installations.

Michigan’s manufacturing industry has always played a key role in supplying our military. During World War II, it was our manufacturers who powered the Arsenal of Democracy — the planes, tanks and vehicles that gave our troops a decisive edge on the battlefield.

Michigan is a place of unbelievable technological innovation — there is a reason the first U.S. Patent satellite office was opened in Detroit and a reason that our state is number one in employment of industrial and mechanical engineers.

When our defense facilities are partnered with manufacturing innovators and our powerhouse universities, it means our men and women in uniform have the latest technology to safely complete their missions.

We also have unique geographical advantages that no other state can match. The flat land around Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center makes it possible to have a 9,000-foot runway to accommodate all sizes of military aircraft — and Lake Huron offers the largest airspace east of the Mississippi River.

Camp Grayling is also an extremely large setting — 10 times the size of Manhattan — and its remoteness in Northern Michigan allows our military and first responders to conduct training simulations with a limited impact on civilians.

The A-10 jets characteristically known as “warthogs” are on the front lines against ISIS and terrorist groups, providing critical air support for U.S. assets on the ground. Many of those brave pilots who fly those missions are stationed at the Selfridge Air National Guard base.

TACOM, which is headquartered in the Detroit Arsenal, supplies a global force of over a million American soldiers with food, uniforms and thousands of pieces of equipment designed to keep them safe under the most extreme conditions. The Detroit Arsenal also hosts TARDEC, which provides sophisticated engineering and scientific expertise for the Department of Defense vehicle systems.

Battle Creek was selected as the home for a new Cyber Operations Squadron that will defend our nation against the growing threat that cyberterrorists pose to our national security. And right next door, Fort Custer is a finalist for landing a missile defense system that when approved by the Pentagon would protect America’s east coast.

So Michigan really does play a crucial part in strengthening our national defense: This is a great story that we don’t tell often enough. And we should. Because in the future, when the U.S. Department of Defense looks at possible base closures, every state with military resources will be challenged to make a compelling case for keeping their bases open.

At the same time, we all need to work together to grow our defense industry by strengthening partnerships between our universities, manufacturers and the defense industry.

When ISIS is committed to launching terror attacks around the globe, or when nuclear weapons are in the hands of dangerous dictators, or when our infrastructure is a target for hackers, we need an Arsenal of Democracy more than ever. And Michigan is poised to provide that arsenal today and long into the future.

Debbie Stabenow is the senior United States Senator from Michigan.