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Cumberland County’s Strong Economy Supported by Military Installations & Federal Spending

Nestled in the heart of southcentral Pennsylvania, Cumberland County is known for its rich history, picturesque landscapes, and thriving communities. Ranked as the fastest-growing county in the Commonwealth, Cumberland County’s dynamic economy is supported by the presence of its military installations and reflects the benefits that come with hosting such strategic assets.

Cumberland County boasts a significant history deeply intertwined with the nation’s military endeavors. The area is home to several military establishments which play a critical role as linchpins to the county’s economic prosperity. The federal government is the county’s largest employer, and these installations support the local real estate, retail, and service industries, among others.

  • Carlisle Barracks, established in 1757, is one of the nation’s oldest military installations. Since 1951, it has housed the U.S. Army War College, an educational institution designed to prepare officers for leadership at the highest levels.
  • Naval Support Activity (NSA), Mechanicsburg, was commissioned on October 1, 1942, and currently has more than 150 buildings with 8.8 million square feet of space. Some 40 tenant commands are located on the 806-acre complex., whose purpose is to maintain and operate safe and secure major logistics storage and support facilities to back the Fleet and support the Sailors and civilians that support the warfighters. (Source: https://cnrma.cnic.navy.mil/Installations/NSA-Mechanicsburg/)
  • The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Susquehanna is a modern military distribution complex that provides Department of Defense-owned commodities to all branches of the armed forces, other agencies of the federal government, and valued customers worldwide. Primary operations in New Cumberland and supplementary facilities in Mechanicsburg provide over 9 million square feet of covered storage space housing inventory worth $16 billion. Home to the largest distribution processing facility in the DoD, this facility employs over 5,500 DoD employees and contractors. (Source: https://www.dla.mil/Distribution/Locations/Susquehanna/)

Pennsylvania is ranked 8th overall in the country in terms of total defense spending. Drilling down further to the county level, the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation reports that for F.Y. 2022, Cumberland County ranked 3rd in the Commonwealth for the number of defense personnel (active duty, civilian, National Guard, and Reserve), with personnel spending at $452.6 million (ranked #2). The report also noted that the federal government invested $406.4 million within the county for defense contracts (ranked #10), and two of the top 10 defense contractors in the state have offices in Cumberland County.

Many small businesses in Cumberland County rely on military personnel and their families as customers. This is especially true in Carlisle, where the U.S. Army War College, located on Carlisle Barracks, welcomes approximately 400 national and international senior military officers and their families for year-long academic instruction, research, and fellowship. These families provide a robust customer base that supports local businesses and helps them to thrive.

Military spending extends beyond the installations themselves. The federal government allocates funding for infrastructure projects, maintenance, and technological advances at these bases. This translates into jobs, providing stable employment opportunities for the local workforce.

Cumberland County is a testament to the economic strength derived from military installations and federal spending. These facilities help shield the county from economic downturns, providing stability and improving the quality of life for its residents. These assets support local businesses, create jobs, and foster growth.

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