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Robert Trigaux

Tampa's SOCOM budget quadruples to nearly $10 billion as war demands, high-tech projects grow

socomlogopatch.Wake up and good morning. At the U.S. Special Operations Command at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, spending since 2001 has quadrupled, with an almost fivefold increase in revenue approaching $1 billion for its four largest defense contractors.

So says a Bloomberg government study. The amount paid to the top four defense contractors supplying the special ops command with equipment and services -- New York-based L-3 Communications Holdings, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co., Florida-based Harris Corp. and Chicago-based Boeing Co. -- has increased from $194.8 million in fiscal year 2001 to $949.9 million in fiscal 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The figures emphasize the economic impact of SOCOM helping to manage multiple wars -- in addition to SEAL Team-6 carrying out the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound that killed him on May 2. And it demonstrates the ongoing influence MacDill AFB has on the overall Tampa Bay economy. Fivefold increases in revenue don't come easily these days in any industry.

Bloomberg says the amount of prime contract awards to small businesses, which are "often more nimble in producing specialty products," has increased even faster -- almost sixfold for procurement, research and development -- from $121.2 million in fiscal 2001 to $702.4 million in fiscal 2010, according to the study, published this week.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as missions elsewhere to fight terrorists, have resulted in the Tampa-based command needing more aircraft, small vessels, ground vehicles, communications gear and computer equipment. The command also has issued contracts for actors to play guerrillas in training exercises and for simulated land mines and mortars that fire paint.

Other technologies the command is interested in include weapons to incapacitate suspects temporarily for identity checks, and "sonic projection" research to electronically beam a message into one person’s head that couldn’t be heard by others to confuse a hostage-taker or get a secret message to his captive.

The command’s non-war base budget has almost tripled from $2.3 billion in fiscal 2001 to $6.3 billion in fiscal 2011. Add the money the command has spent fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and the organization’s total budget amount has quadrupled the past 10 years to $9.8 billion in fiscal 2011.

Read  the Bloomberg story here.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 7:19am]


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