When we’re discussing cleared cybersecurity careers, the focus is frequently on the high demand in the Washington, D.C. metro. But across the country, the temperatures are a little hotter and the demand for aerospace and defense workers is heating up. A recent economic report noted that San Diego continues to offer high-paying tech jobs, as well as careers in the military. More than 150 cyber-related firms call San Diego home, and 75% of those were expected to grow their cyber employment in the next 12 months. The cybersecurity industry has more than a total of $2 billion economic impact in the city, with a nearly 20,000 jobs in the sector.

The bigger driver of jobs in the area is the military. Last month the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC) unveiled the 11th annual Military Economic Impact Study (MEIS) at the Navy Harbor Drive Annex with Mayor Kevin Faulconer joining leadership from the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. This latest economic study provided an expanded focus on the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR), which is anticipated to bring an additional $3.2 billion into the city’s economy.

According to MEIS, there are now 354,000 military-connected jobs, accounting for 22% of all the jobs in the region, and adding $51 billion to the local economy. That is one-fifth of San Diego’s total gross regional product (GRP). SDMAC also projected a 7% increase next year as the national defense strategy shifts toward the Pacific, and as additional U.S. Navy ships are home-ported in America’s Finest City.

“Defense spending has increased in San Diego as the Navy has rebalanced the fleet toward the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region,” said Mark Balmert, executive director of SDMAC, via a statement. “This could be very significant in the year ahead should we see slowing of the economy on a national or global scale.”

There are now a myriad of industries that are directly affected by defense spending and the study’s author, Dr. Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Fermanian Business & Economic Institute said this has created a “mega-cluster” in the region.

“This year’s report again shows that the defense sector and all its related activities is San Diego’s most important economic driver,” Reaser said in a statement. “Tourism, health care, medicine, shipbuilding — it doesn’t fit into one box. What makes it so complex is what makes it so important to our region.”

Greater Fleet Presence

Naval Base San Diego, which locals refer to as 32nd Street Naval Station, is currently the second largest Surface Ship base of the U.S. Navy and the principal homeport of the Pacific Fleet, consisting of more than 50 ships and 190 tenant commands. By 2020 it is projected to be home to 65 ships, and that could impact the local economy – as just one aircraft carrier can generate upwards of $800 million in GRP.

San Diego is home to the two carriers, the Theodore Roosevelt and the currently-deployed Abraham Lincoln, but according to naval sources a third carrier could be assigned to the city in the near future.

The number of active military personnel could also increase in the region. Currently, one of every six sailors in the entire Navy, and more than one out of every four Marines are stationed across San Diego’s bases, totaling 56,000 sailors and 52,000 Marines. While the number of Marines may not change, by next year there could be nearly 64,000 sailors stationed in the area. The United States Coast Guard operations also support 1, 745 personnel and generates $290 million in economic benefits.

In addition, there are now 143,000 people that are directly employed by the military in San Diego, and that number is projected to grow to more than 150,000 next year.

All this could create a “ripple effect” in the local economy as service members spend money in the area – and this includes buying homes. The report noted that the jobs created directly and indirectly by defense spending include those in diverse fields including shipbuilding, but also health care, real estate and education.

“The 2019 San Diego Military Advisory Council’s Military Economic Impact Study really reveals what we already know,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement. “America’s Finest City thrives in large part because of our men and women in uniform. The study solidifies the significance and the tremendous impact the military and defense communities bring to our San Diego region.”


This year’s economic study also put NAVWAR in the spotlight, as it is undergoing the process of building a new facility near Pacific Highway in the Midway District.

“NAVWAR has a long history with San Diego, as the region has been a strong partner in executing our mission of delivering and sustaining information warfare capabilities for the Fleet and our partners around the world,” said NAVWAR Commander Rear Admiral Christian Becker. “This economic impact study helps us better understand the details of our relationship and how together we support our mutual success today as we prepare for the conflicts of the future from seabed to space and in cyberspace.”

NAVWAR is the hub for military communication technology development and procurement, and is projected to generate $3.2 billion to the local economy, while accounting for 29,000 jobs. San Diego and NAVWAR have a special synergy – with NAVWAR bringing major economic, technological and educational benefits to the area; while the city provides a vital network of defense contractors, research firms, talent, university connections and notably proximity to the Navy installations. San Diego even serves as an incubator for small business whose customer base includes the Department of Defense (DoD).

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com.