San Diego County's economy has really become diversified in recent decades. But when you closely follow the money, defense spending is still the big anchor of local commerce and employment.
According to an economic study released Wednesday by UC San Diego researchers, more than one out of every four jobs in this region is generated by the military-industrial complex.
While local unemployment overall has been a drag on the economy, the Dept. of Defense put 27,000 more people to work over a year's time.
"The DOD dollars that were spent in this area greatly softened the impact of the global recession that we experienced," said John Pettitt, president of the San Diego Military Advisory Council. "I mean, 2008-2009 could've been brutal for this area if we hadn't had a lot of DOD dollars come in here."
According to the study, commissioned by the council, the Pentagon spent more than $18 billion here during Uncle Sam's 2009 fiscal year.
Spread around the community in numerous uniformed and civilian payrolls, and procurement payments to defense contractors and suppliers, it had a so-called 'output impact' of over $30 billion.
The UC San Diego researchers project those numbers to go to nearly $21 billion in direct spending, $35 billion with the economic multiplier effect this fiscal year.
Business leaders who’ve often been concerned about another round of base closures are cheering Pentagon plans for further growth in this area.
"San Diego has fared pretty well in the past, and I think we're well positioned -- being on the Pacific Rim, being in the southwest part of the country," said Ruben Barrales, president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. "Having the highest concentration of military personnel in the continental United States positions us very well."
An increase of nearly 8,000 active-duty military personnel -- mainly Marines -- is expected countywide by 2013.
While San Diego is widely considered an idea 'duty station', it's an inviting military retirement community as well -- further cementing the Pentagon's local economic investments.