For more than a century, San Diego’s defense cluster has been at the heart of the regional economy. The breadth and depth of defense activity stretches far beyond military bases and naval ships; from telecomm to robotics, aerospace to cybersecurity, San Diego’s defense cluster is the driving force behind the region’s innovation economy. In absence of the defense cluster, it is doubtful San Diego would be the global innovation hub it is today. In 2017, defense-related spending contributed $25.2 billion to the regional economy. More than $9 billion came from defense contracts procured by private firms, making San Diego the second largest recipient of defense procurement dollars nationwide. Today, there are more than 5,600 defense contractors connected to the region’s defense cluster. The overwhelming majority are small businesses in the manufacturing and professional, scientific, and technical service sectors which, together, account for 81 percent of all defense-specific contractor employment.
As a region heavily reliant upon defense spending, uncertainty surrounding the federal defense budget poses a potential threat to the region’s essential network of defense contractors and, more broadly, the regional economy. In order to better understand and support the local defense cluster, a survey of defense contractors in the region was conducted to gauge perceptions of the business climate, with the ultimate goal of informing the development of specific programs designed to enhance the resiliency of local companies.