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Alabama’s Defense Clusters

Your guide to Alabama’s $17 billion defense industry — the major military bases and the contractors that employ more than 117,000 Alabama workers.

The Bell 407 is one of Bell Helicopter’s commercial craft that get refurbished at Bell’s maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at Ozark. Bell’s Ozark site is a prime contractor for Fort Rucker and has a production line to install an upgrade kit on the existing UH-1 helicopter frame, transforming it into a Huey II.

The Bell 407 is one of Bell Helicopter’s commercial craft that get refurbished at Bell’s maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at Ozark. Bell’s Ozark site is a prime contractor for Fort Rucker and has a production line to install an upgrade kit on the existing UH-1 helicopter frame, transforming it into a Huey II.

The people of Alabama do more than their share to support the U.S. military — and the military helps support the people of Alabama. Aside from those who serve in active duty or reserve roles, many Alabamians work in civilian roles that support the defense industry. As a result, a wide range of public-sector and private-sector jobs — and the state’s economic sustainability — are closely linked to Pentagon decisions about base realignment and closure (BRAC) and threats of sequestration.

Military bases, the National Guard and Reserve, and defense contractors have an annual economic impact of more than $17 billion in Alabama, and more than 117,000 Alabamians work in jobs that are directly or indirectly connected to military installations. 

“To put that into perspective, the state’s largest industry is agriculture, with an impact of $70 billion,” says Michael Ward, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. “The military’s impact is larger than the state’s automotive industry and construction industry combined.” 

Alabama military resources include Fort Rucker Army Base (Dale County); Maxwell Gunter Air Force Base (Montgomery); the Anniston Army Depot; the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center (Mobile), and the Army’s Redstone Arsenal (Huntsville). In addition, the state is home to significant Alabama National Guard and Reserve components and defense contractor operations. Military installations and activities based in Alabama help to develop, field, maintain, support and train the most effective military in the world.

Recognizing the importance of the defense industry to the state’s economy, the Alabama Legislature created the Alabama Job Creation and Military Stability Commission in 2011 to help protect and expand the state’s military missions. The Commission and its companion organization, the Alabama Military Stability Foundation, focus on building an environment where military installations and accompanying private contractors will thrive. 

“The Commission and the Foundation are working to enhance the military value of our bases and to position them for the next round of BRAC decisions,” says Ward, who also serves as chairman of the Alabama Military Stability Foundation. “We support infrastructure improvements on the bases, and we work to advance public and private partnerships to support the bases. We also work with the Legislature to create a military-friendly environment through legislation and policies that support those serving in the military and their families.”

Nancy Jackson, Jessica Armstrong, Laura Stakelum and Tammy Leytham are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. Jackson is based in Huntsville, Armstrong in Auburn, Stakelum in Dothan and Leytham in Fairhope.

With about 560 active duty and civilian personnel, the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Training Facility in Mobile is one of the largest units in the Coast Guard.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

 

Coast Guard Aviation Training Center

For almost 50 years, the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile has affected the economy in big ways. With about 600 personnel — both active duty and civilian — the center is one of the largest non-industrial employers in Mobile County.

For local residents, the sight of the orange and white aircraft flying overhead is as much a part of Mobile as Moon Pies at Mardi Gras. And officials say that’s not likely to change.

In the mid 1960s, escalation of the Vietnam conflict caused the Coast Guard training unit in Georgia to be turned over to the Army to use for helicopter flight training. A search to find a location for an expanded Coast Guard training unit revealed an Air Force Reserve facility at the municipal airport in Mobile. It consisted of a large main hangar, an administration building and a public works building on 232 acres. It looked like just the right spot.

About the same time, the Air Force eliminated flight operations at Keesler AFB — the location of Coast Guard Air Station Biloxi, charged with fixed-wing Air Search and Rescue for the Gulf of Mexico from Cape San Blas, Florida, to Sabine Pass, Texas. The Air Station had to be relocated.

The Mobile site would accommodate the training requirements and a relocated Biloxi Air Station for Search and Rescue. The facility was transferred from the Air Force to the Coast Guard, and Air Station Mobile was commissioned on Dec. 17, 1966.

In July 1969, Air Station Mobile was renamed the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Training Center and was designated a headquarters unit.

The unit provides aviation support for Coast Guard Eighth District search and rescue, law enforcement, marine safety, homeland security and logistics missions. This is accomplished with an around-the-clock ready HU-25 and other available aviation assets.

In 2013, ATC Mobile participated in 164 search and rescue missions, saving 26 lives, assisting 68 individuals and saving $2.1 million in property. The center spent 2,200 hours in support of law enforcement missions in 2013, including a foiled drug smuggling attempt. Within 30 minutes of notification, an HC-144A and crew is ready to launch for search and rescue or law enforcement missions.

Coast Guard personnel stationed in Mobile also volunteer countless hours in the community through Partners in Education, Habitat for Humanity, giving tours to class field trips or speaking at career day presentations, says Lt. Jason Chesnut, of ATC Mobile.

The Aviation Training Center Mobile is one of the Coast Guard’s largest units, with 595 active duty military and civilian personnel. It generates nearly $98 million in payroll in Mobile and surrounding counties, according to the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.

ATC Mobile’s major facilities include 230 acres and 48 buildings at the Mobile Regional Airport. This includes two aircraft hangars, a flight training systems building, a health services barracks and galley, and the Coast Guard Exchange and gas station.

Two other Coast Guard divisions operating in Mobile include Sector Mobile, with just more than 200 personnel and an $8.7 million payroll, and the Gulf Strike Team with 75 personnel.

In addition there are several defense contractors in the area that support the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard in building ships, as well as two major contractors that support the aircraft at ATC Mobile. One of those is Airbus.

Contractor Profile: Airbus Defense and Space

Airbus Defense and Space’s U.S. military aircraft unit has a 50-person operation in Mobile and is proud to be a part of that local community, says company spokesman Quentin Hunstad.

The Mobile operation provides access to a certified repair station for operators of the C212 and CN 235 tactical transports, as well as direct support from the aircraft manufacturer.

The business located in Mobile to be closer to the unit’s largest customer in the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard, Hunstad says. 

Since 1984, Airbus Defense and Space’s U.S. military aircraft unit has provided customers with service based on stringent quality standards. The military aircraft unit offers maintenance, repair and overhaul services; complete component repair; extensive material services; professional engineering, and technical support for transport aircraft.

In February 2014, the company opened a new 7,500-square-foot component repair facility, expanding on its 30,000-square-foot maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) delivery center that opened at Mobile Regional Airport in 2009. 

The component repair facility is another industrial resource to improve customer service for the company’s medium and light multi-mission aircraft operators. New services include hydraulic, avionics, composite and structural repairs, painting, component exchange and highly skilled engineering support.

Some capabilities at the repair facility may support the Airbus A320 Family aircraft assembly line, currently under construction in Mobile. This is the first major manufacturing facility for Airbus in the United States, and represents a $600 million investment in the Gulf Coast region. The Mobile assembly line will ultimately employ 1,000 highly skilled workers and is scheduled to deliver its first aircraft in 2016.

The military aircraft unit is part of the larger Airbus Group, a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. Airbus Group contributes more than $14.4 billion to the U.S. economy annually and supports more than 245,000 American jobs through its network of suppliers.

Future Prospects

Across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, pose a challenge to all areas of the federal government, including national defense and the Coast Guard. But the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile appears to be in a stable position headed into the future.

“We have been a part of the Mobile area for decades and are happy to be an integral part of the community,” Chesnut says.

No cuts are planned specific to the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, says Seth Morrow, communications director for U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Mobile.

“The real problem with these cuts is their indiscriminate nature that does not allow commanders to prioritize their needs. That’s why Congressman Byrne has been a proponent in Congress for ending these disastrous cuts to national security programs and agencies, including the Coast Guard,” Morrow says.

President Barack Obama’s proposed 2016 Budget includes $1 billion for the Coast Guard to replace aging cutters, aircraft, electronic systems and shore infrastructure. As part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard is charged to defend against potential acts of terrorism, in addition to enforcement of laws and watching for illegal activity on the nation’s waterways. — Tammy Leytham​

Big Contractors at Coast Guard ATC

  • Airbus Defense and Space’s U.S. military aircraft unit
  • Lockheed Martin Corp.

Employees from AMC Headquarters visited Anniston Army Depot Sept. 17, 2014. The tour included the Small Arms Facility, and the Combat Vehicle Assembly and Disassembly shop. 

Photo by Master Sgt. James T. Eagleman

Anniston Army Depot

In 1941, the Anniston Army Depot opened as a simple depository employing four people. The multi-mission installation is now the Alabama Third Congressional District’s largest employer and widely recognized for its heavy combat vehicle and small arms expertise. Growth like that could turn any red-blooded CEO green with envy.  

The Depot is the site for the repair, modification, upgrade and conversion of all heavy and light-tracked vehicles, except the Bradley, along with towed and self-propelled artillery and small arms. 

According to Public Affairs Officer Clester Burdell, the Depot is a Department of Defense leader in public-private partnerships and has established more than 80 partnerships with industry leaders. Burdell calls this a “win-win opportunity,” which allows each sector to capitalize on its strengths and efficiencies. 

Burdell says there are about 4,000 people working on the installation. Of that number, about 2,775 are Depot employees, 665 are contractors and 545 are tenants, government employees who rent on the property. The two largest tenants are the Anniston Munitions Center, which stores and ships conventional munitions for all branches of the U.S. military, and Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Anniston, responsible for storing and shipping defense material, including products produced by the Depot.

The Depot has an operating budget of $616 million and a $307 million payroll. Based on the number of employees and the average annual salary of about $78,000, employees spend about $511 million in the area.

Future Prospects

Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun Chamber of Commerce, calls the Anniston Army Depot a “crown jewel” in the Department of Defense and is confident that the installation will fare well if there is another BRAC commission in 2017.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work announced that the United States has saved about $4 billion a year since the Department of Defense last conducted a BRAC in 2005, which cost roughly $35.1 billion. Defense officials have requested authorization from lawmakers to conduct another BRAC round in 2017. 

The Depot is the only facility in the Department of Defense capable of maintaining all the Army’s heavy combat vehicles, all the small caliber weapons and artillery, and bridging, says Hill, who spoke on the Depot’s behalf at the 2005 BRAC. Other facilities can maintain light vehicles, but not heavy ones. 

“For this reason alone, the Depot should fare well in another BRAC.”

Hill says the 2005 BRAC had a positive effect on the Depot, which gained some maintenance missions from Barstow Marine Corp base and Rock Island Arsenal. Yet in 2012, about 500 civilian workers were laid off and more than 300 of those were related to the completion of the Chemical Demilitarization mission at the Depot. Some were temporarily rehired in 2013 and 2014 because of an increased workload, with termination in mid-2015. 

Even in peacetime, the Depot plays an important role, Hill notes. Soldiers continue to train on all their equipment to stay ready for future conflict and wars. So equipment needs to be maintained for both training and wartime. 

Employees not only repair combat vehicles and small arms on the installation, but also many have volunteered to deploy to the Middle East and other repair shops worldwide, so damaged military equipment can be repaired and returned to the troops as swiftly as possible. 

Contractor Profile: General Dynamics

The Depot’s oldest partnership and one of its largest is with Michigan-based General Dynamics Land Systems, which began in 1993. The company is located on the Depot at multiple locations and employs 454 workers. 

An agreement in 2006 teamed General Dynamics and the Depot for support and service of the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams tanks and the Stryker eight-wheeled combat vehicles worldwide. General Dynamics works closely with the Depot to perform maintenance on both heavy and light-tracked combat vehicles and their components. 

Currently, General Dynamics is working with the Depot to upgrade and refurbish 100 to 120 Strykers each year. More than 1,000 Stryker vehicles have been refurbished at the Depot and sent back to operations. 

Another partnership between General Dynamics and the Depot in 2012 launched a Stryker DVH, double-V hull, exchange pilot program to quickly refurbish and reassemble the Stryker flat bottom models into the newer, more survivable DVH variant.  

The double-V pilot program was completed in April 2013, delivering 52 Stryker vehicles on time and under budget. The partnership’s success convinced the Army that a cost-efficient process for exchanging the original Stryker for a more survivable double-V variant could be implemented for the entire fleet of more than 4,500 vehicles. More work is expected by 2017 when the U.S. Army continues its modernization program. — Jessica Armstrong

Big Contractors at the Depot

  • General Dynamics Land Systems. The partnership began in 1993 as a means to upgrade the M1 main battle tank to the technologically improved M1A2, and is one of the first public-private partnerships in the Department of Defense. 
  • BAE Systems. BAE teamed with the Depot in 1996 to overhaul, reset and upgrade several vehicle platforms. In 2011, the Depot and BAE Systems partnered to provide refurbished vehicles to the Iraqi Army. 
  • Honeywell. The partnership began in 2010 to manufacture recuperators for the AGT 1500 engine. The partnership also supports allies, and in 2005 the Egyptian Engine Program was established to build turbine engines for the Egyptian Army.
  • Raytheon. The partnership began in 2010. This industry supports the U.S. Marine Corps Secondary Reparables Program, which requires that the Depot repair and return inoperable secondary items to the U.S. Marine Corps under short deadlines. With Raytheon, the Depot has never missed a Marine requirement.

Bell’s MRO facility in Ozark is equipped to refurbish the Bell 206L4, a workhorse for corporate transport and offshore oil and gas rig support — a spin off of the MRO contract work Bell performs for the U.S. Army at Fort Rucker. 
 

Fort Rucker

Located on 63,100 acres in southeast Alabama, Fort Rucker opened in 1942 as Camp Rucker, named to honor Civil War Confederate officer Edmund W. Rucker. The first troops to train at Camp Rucker were the 81st Infantry Division. These troops left for the Pacific in 1943. The 35th, 98th and 66th Divisions also trained at Camp Rucker during World War II. Many other units trained at Camp Rucker, including tank, infantry replacement and Women’s Army Corps. German and Italian prisoners of war were housed at Camp Rucker. 

After an inactive stretch from March 1946 to August 1950, the camp reopened to train 47th Infantry Division replacement combat troops during the Korean conflict. 

In August 1954, Army Aviation School began moving to Camp Rucker from Fort Still, Oklahoma. The name was changed to Fort Rucker in 1955. 

Today, it is home to the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence and the largest helicopter training installation in the world. Army and Air Force helicopter personnel have been training at Fort Rucker since 1971. The Aviation Center’s mission is to train military, civilian and international personnel. 

According to a 2009 economic impact study done by Troy University, Fort Rucker wages and salaries comprise approximately 17 percent of total wages and salaries in the nine-county Wiregrass area, and 12 percent of the total employment of the Wiregrass area is due to Fort Rucker. More than $1 billion is paid annually to military retirees within a 50-mile radius of Fort Rucker. In 2009, military, civilian and students at Fort Rucker were as many as 6,448. Military employees are paid approximately $272.51 million in wages and salaries. Contracts accounted for $656.24 million in 2009. 

Contractor Profile: L-3 Army Fleet Support

One of the largest contractors, Army Fleet Support has been providing aviation maintenance and logistics support to the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence and the United States Air Force at Fort Rucker since 2003. The Aviation Center Logistics Command is the primary customer of Army Fleet Support, providing safe and reliable helicopters to train U.S. Army and Air Force aviators.  L-3 Army Fleet Support employs a highly experienced and trained workforce of more than 3,000 people. According to public relations manager Lisa Gee, this workforce is responsible for doing maintenance on the flight lines and managing supplies at the warehouse. 

“AFS employees are the key to success,” says Gee. “They take pride in the work they do to support Fort Rucker, their nation and local communities.”

Future Prospects

According to Retired Brig. Gen. Rod Wolfe, Friends of Fort Rucker was formed to support Fort Rucker in the event of future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) measures. Since 1988, there have been five rounds of BRAC talks. In 1993, citizens were concerned that Fort Rucker was in danger of losing infrastructure, and Friends of Fort Rucker was formed to prepare. Between BRAC talks, Friends of Fort Rucker helps by putting out a federal agenda to get the needs and desires of Fort Rucker accomplished. In February 2015, a team from the U.S. Army came to gather information to present to Congress about the upcoming sequestration. Wolfe and the Friends of Fort Rucker invited the public to the Fort Rucker Post Theatre to show the community’s support of Fort Rucker. 

“They had a public forum so citizens could tell the team what Fort Rucker means to them,” Wolfe says. “The session went extremely well.”

Including social media and streaming on the Internet, more than 7,000 people were watching the forum. Sequestration will commence on October 1 unless Congress takes action. In a worst-case scenario, sequestration could mean up to a 40 percent cut to Fort Rucker, causing 2,500 military, contract and civilian personnel to lose their jobs. Student levels could go from 900 to under 600. 

“Martha Roby has been fighting for us daily,” Wolfe says, referring to the region’s representative in Congress. 

Sequestration creates excess infrastructure, and BRAC gets rid of infrastructure that is no longer needed. According to Wolfe, it will be hard to avoid BRAC if sequestration happens. 

“We would love to have support from the citizens of the area,” Wolfe says. “Let the elected officials know how important this is to us.” — Laura Stakelum​

Big Contractors at Fort Rucker

An Army pilot puts a helicopter system through the jumps at the Redstone Test Center, at Redstone Arsenal. The RTC optimizes test programs with a rigorous sequence of testing, modeling and simulation.

Photo by Dennis Keim

 

Redstone Arsenal

Located in Huntsville, the Redstone Arsenal Army Base spans 38,125 acres, including 10 miles of riverfront property along the Tennessee River. The story of Redstone is the story of Huntsville, as the arrival of the military and its ongoing presence in the area fueled the growth of the city around it, from a small farming community to the nation’s 120th largest metropolitan area. 

The Arsenal was originally formed in 1941 to manufacture weapons and ammunition, as the Army ramped up support for World War II. In 1950, when Wernher von Braun and his rocket team arrived, the Arsenal became the center of Army missile development and rocketry — also laying the foundation for the U.S. space program. After NASA was formed, a large number of Army employees and supporting programs were transferred to NASA, and the Marshall Space Flight Center was established at Redstone Arsenal. The Saturn V rocket that carried three astronauts to the moon in 1969 was the result of work performed at Redstone Arsenal, and the MSFC continues to develop key transportation and propulsion technologies for the space program. 

Through BRAC decisions in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, a number of new operational units have made their home at Redstone Arsenal. It is the location of the Logistics Support Activity, Army Materiel Command’s four-star headquarters, Space and Missile Defense Command’s three-star headquarters, most of the Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Army’s Security Assistance Command’s two-star headquarters. In addition, the Arsenal is home to Army Contracting Command and Expeditionary Contracting Command, as well as the Department of Justice’s explosives research and analytical centers for the FBI and ATF. All these various programs constitute a diverse mission set for Redstone Arsenal and the employees who work there, making the area a hotbed for companies in the aerospace, defense and technology industries that want to work on government contracts. 

As Redstone’s military installations have grown, its importance to the Huntsville region has continued to expand. More than 35,000 people work on Redstone Arsenal, including 1,000 active duty military members, 19,500 government civilians and 15,000 contractors. Thousands of others work at local companies that provide contract services to Redstone Arsenal installations. In total, the Redstone Arsenal has an annual economic impact of more than $12 billion, according to an economic impact study conducted by the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Contractor Profile: Lockheed Martin

Thousands of workers in the Huntsville area are employed by defense contractors, private companies that do business with the government and military installations based at Redstone Arsenal. Those companies range from tiny entrepreneurial startups to global corporations. Lockheed Martin, for instance, has operated in Huntsville for more than 50 years and now employs more than 1,000 workers in Huntsville. Four of the corporation’s business areas have operations in Alabama: Space Systems Company, Missiles and Fire Control, Information Systems and Global Solutions and Mission Systems and Training.

“Huntsville is an important location for Lockheed Martin due to the proximity to our Army and Missile Defense Agency customers at Redstone Arsenal and NASA customers at Marshall Space Flight Center,” says Jim Rogers, vice president of business development for Army, Special Operation Forces and Missile Defense Programs at Lockheed Martin. “We value our heritage in the Rocket City, which is a magnet for business and innovation. Our employees are highly skilled in a variety of disciplines, including engineering, manufacturing and supporting business functions.”

Air and missile defense systems are a focus for Lockheed Martin’s operations in Huntsville, and air and missile defense components developed by the company have achieved more than 100 missile intercepts in combat and testing — more than any other company, Rogers says. The company supports a variety of Redstone Arsenal programs. For instance, for the Missile Defense Agency’s Targets and Countermeasures Program, Lockheed Martin is a leading provider of highly reliable, threat-representative target missiles, of various ranges, that are used to test the Ballistic Missile Defense System. Lockheed plays a significant role in the development and production of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which is designed to protect U.S. troops, allies and critical infrastructure against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. The company also works on battle management for the Missile Defense Agency’s Command, Control, Battle Management and Communications system, and for the tri-national Medium Extended Air Defense System. Lockheed Martin’s Unmanned Integrated Systems, based in Huntsville, is a leader in providing ground control stations for unmanned aerial systems for the U.S. military. 

“With key Lockheed Martin customers based in Huntsville and a growing need for our systems around the globe, we foresee Lockheed Martin maintaining a stable presence in this community,” Rogers says.

Future Prospects

Because the U.S. military is always in flux and changes are often made to meet the country’s defense needs, stay within budgets and evolve with new technologies and innovations, there is always a risk that the military missions located at any base may be relocated or closed. However, because of Redstone’s long success with diverse military missions and strong working relationships with the local community, and a highly trained local workforce, local officials believe the base will be sustainable. 

“Redstone is considered to be an enduring military base and is more likely to gain than to lose positions in any future rounds of BRAC,” says Michael Ward, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. “The two previous rounds of BRAC have brought significant growth on Redstone with the consolidation of the Army’s aviation program management, materiel management, foreign military sales, contract support, test and evaluation, research development and engineering, as well as significant growth in missile defense roles and missions.”

As the Huntsville business community has traditionally mirrored the growth of the Arsenal, the long-term endurance of the base points to ongoing expansion of business growth across the Tennessee Valley region. — Nancy Mann Jackson

Big Contractors at Redstone

A view of the monument photographed at night shows the sculpture of Orville Wright at the flyer’s controls. The monument was dedicated Sept. 18, 1985, during a large ceremony that included rides in a flying model of a 1917 Wright Brothers aircraft.

Photo by Donna Burnett

Maxwell Air Force Base/Gunter Annex

Maxwell Air Force Base sits on a former Montgomery cotton plantation – where aeronautical technology spans the Wright brothers’ early planes to 21st century aircraft. When Orville and Wilbur Wright operated a flying school on the site in 1910, the local press reported “a strange new bird” soaring over the cotton fields and a flyer seen “glinting now and then in the moonlight.” 

In 1931, the Air Corps Tactical School opened at Maxwell Field, where aviation pioneers taught themselves the primary fighter tactics used in World War II. In 1947, after the U.S. Air Force became a separate service, Maxwell Field became Maxwell Air Force Base. 

Today, the base is home to more than 12,000 active-duty, reserve, civilian and contractor personnel. Also on the base is Air University, an important center for military education and training. 

Gunter Annex is a separate installation under the 42nd Air Base Wing. As a hedge against future Base Realignment and Closure action, Gunter was consolidated under Maxwell Air Force Base and the combined installation is commonly referred to as Maxwell-Gunter.

The 42nd Air Base Wing’s mission is to develop mission-ready airmen and provide all base operating support, infrastructure and services support for active duty, reserve, civilian and contractor personnel, students and family at Maxwell and the Gunter annex. 

Founded in 1946, Air University offers a full spectrum of Air Force education, from pre-commissioning to the highest levels of professional military education, including degree granting and professional continuing education for officers, enlisted and civilian personnel. 

“Air University is the Intellectual and Leadership Center of the Air Force,” notes Richard Plaskett, director of Defense Technology Development at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. “All its commissioned and senior noncommissioned officers receive multiple kinds of training there during their careers.”

Maxwell-Gunter is Montgomery County’s largest employer. About 26,000 people work on the base, with 1,800 of those being contract employees. The total Maxwell-Gunter related population is about 64,400 with 85 percent living off the installation.  

“If the Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base closed, Montgomery could lose 20 percent of its population, and Prattville, Millbrook and Wetumpka up to a third of their population,” says Plaskett. 

According to the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, Maxwell Air Force Base has created nearly 3,900 indirect jobs. It has an annual payroll of $750 million, an operating budget of more than $500 million, annual expenditures of $1.66 billion and $161 million estimated value of jobs created. The estimated total economic impact of all Maxwell-Gunter units on the Montgomery area is nearly $2.6 billion annually.  

Contractor Profile: Vectrus

The base has annual contracts totaling $1.4 billion, according to the Chamber. One of its largest is Vectrus, a Colorado Springs, Colorado-based company that is the prime contractor for the Maxwell Base Operating Support contract, which makes available a full range of base support for the U.S. Air Force Air Education and Training Command, plus 18 major tenant units at the base. 

Vectrus provides resource management, civil engineering, operations, airfield support, human resources, transportation, and supply and services to Maxwell-Gunter. Infrastructure asset management includes all aspects of facilities maintenance and operations, airfield support services and community services for airmen and their families. 

According to Vectrus spokesman George Rhynedance, in 2008 Vectrus was awarded a contract slightly under $400 million. Vectrus employs more than 5,000 people in 15 countries and in 2014 generated sales of $1.2 billion. 

Vectrus also handles information technology and network communication services, which includes operations and maintenance of network services, web design, handheld radio system update and accountability, imaging, and updating operating systems and technical support.

The company also oversees logistics and supply chain management services. In addition to these comprehensive services, Vectrus engages local businesses to assist with various projects at the base. Rhynedance says it is his company’s policy not to disclose the number of jobs on the contract. 

Future Prospects

Maxwell-Gunter got through the 2005 BRAC relatively unscathed. Philip Berube, the base’s public affairs chief, says one change as a result of the 2005 session was to move the Air Force Chaplain Service Institute to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where it is now part of the Armed Forces Chaplaincy.

Plaskett believes that as long as the base continues to grow, it should weather any upcoming BRAC sessions. 

He points out that Air University is irreplaceable and that the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Core Data Center is undergoing mission growth. The 26th Network Operations Squadron, which defends the Air Force Network, is also growing. And the Chamber is working to get new clients and build new relationships in the Air Force Program Executive Office for Business Enterprise Systems, which strengthens IT capabilities. 

“As long as we keep growing, I am confident we’ll be able to survive another BRAC,” says Plaskett, “but we can never let our guard down.” — Jessica Armstrong

Big Contractors at Maxwell

  • Vectrus. The Colorado Springs, Colorado-based company has a contract to provide comprehensive base operations support. 
  • Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. The state agency provides food service to the dining facilities at Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex.
  • Progressive Expert Consulting. The Syracuse, New York company supports Maxwell-Gunter’s Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP), which develops the airmen’s foreign language and cultural capabilities, and offers classes in 75 languages. 
  • Excelis Inc. The McLean, Virginia-based IT company provides airmen with access to leading-edge technological solutions.
  • Array Information Technology. The Greenbelt, Maryland-based company provides IT products and services to Maxwell-Gunter.
  • Indrasoft. The Reston, Virginia-based woman and minority-owned company also provides IT solutions for Air Force applications.  

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