(Fourth in BorderLines' series of Border Industrial Security Complex)
At the recent Border Security Conference at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), the city’s Regional Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) had an exhibition table along with an array of companies specializing in security and defense. REDCO lists Military/Defense/Homeland Security as its top target industry. That’s understandable given the tremendous growth of military and homeland security contracts experienced in the last eight years. REDCO boasts that El Paso already hosts such major military/security industries as Raytheon, Boeing, and Lockheed-Martin, and it says that El Paso is now “Taking the lead in America’s Border Security” through new “homeland security research and development.” The new blend of military and homeland security industries was evident at UTEP’s conference, whose fiscal sponsors, with the exception of REDCO, all represented this emerging military/security industry: SAIC, Raytheon, ManTech, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and CSC. In addition to these sponsors, more than a dozen other industries exhibited their homeland security wares to conference attendees. Since 2000 government military and homeland security contracts have been raining down on El Paso. Military and border-security industries are sprouting up all over the sprawling city, contributing mightily to El Paso’s booming economy amid the national recession. In 2000 DOD awarded area-based industries 254 contracts – worth $304.7 million. Last year the city benefited from more than four times as many contracts – 1,156 contracts – amounting to $575.6 million. An especially good year for area military contracting was 2006, when DOD signed 1,237 contracts amounting to $863 million. Over the last eight years the number and dollar amount of DOD contracts have risen steadily, helping to put El Paso on the national map as a center for weapons and security development. In the military sector alone, El Paso industries have been awarded more than $4 billion in contracts. Going into 2009, more than 830 military contractors were doing business in the area. From 2000 to 2008 city military contractors were awarded 8,313 military contracts worth $4.6 billion. While $4.6 billion is not small change and places El Paso among the major military development centers in Texas – the nation’s second largest recipient of defense contracts (closely following Virginia) – it pales in comparison with the amount of military business in the Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Houston metropolitan areas. From 2000 to 008, Texas garnered $256 billion in military contracts, with the annual value of contracts rising from $5.7 billion in 2000 to $36.6 billion in 2008.