Caroline MacGregor Published

W.Va. National Guard Projects Sizeable Economic Impact From State Operations

A group of soldiers stand outside a large Capitol building in Washington D.C.
Last month, members of the West Virginia National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield explosive Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) participated in response exercises at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
West Virginia National Guard

The West Virginia National Guard said the state is seeing a large return on investment in its West Virginia operations which is a part of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. 

Lt. Scott Applegate, deputy staff judge advocate with the West Virginia National Guard updated the Select Committee on Veterans Affairs Tuesday on how the guard’s role in helping to sustain the local economy.

The guard’s state budget stands at nearly $21 million. Applegate said for every state dollar invested, there’s a return of $16 to $20 in federal funds. 

That equals a direct economic impact of $370 million with an indirect impact of $500 million. Applegate said that includes everything from construction to pay costs.

“Since about 1995, we’ve completed about $463 million worth of construction upgrades and facilities to our armories for about 1.7 million square feet in what we’ve improved, and we continue to modernize these facilities,” he said.

Applegate said improvements include maintaining the guard’s aircraft fleet, which he said is key to their ability to respond to emergencies. 

“As we stay on the cutting edge, we move from a C-130 older model to a C-130J model and that is a conversion operation that is really important for us,” he said. “So that keeps our aircraft modernized, it keeps our C-130s flying, and it keeps these forces in the maintenance structure needed to support these air frames in West Virginia.” 

Applegate pointed out to the committee that the state’s 20-1 investment is very small for such a large economic impact. The National Guard’s most recent annual report will be released in late December or early January in time for the 2024 legislative session.

Applegate said their next major mission is to further develop participation in the State Partnership Program. The initiative includes 88 partnerships with 100 nations around the globe and is considered a key U.S. security cooperation tool. The resulting partnerships facilitate cooperation across all aspects of international civil-military affairs and friendships that strengthen state and national security goals. 

West Virginia is currently aligned with Peru and Qatar. The state’s partnership with Peru was one of the earliest SPP programs in the country. Applegate said this year, 50 airmen participated in C-17 training, marking the first time since 2014 that an aircraft was deployed in Peru in support of the program.

“The federal resources and federal units will use us to help build a better relationship with them because we do have those enduring relationships with those partner nations,” Applegate said. “Through our SPP, we will conduct military to military engagements in support of defense security goals and we’ll train and work with these partners to build their capacity and strengthen national security with our partnerships.”    

As the National Guard adapts to change, Applegate said remaining viable for the federal government as a tool to be used during war time, or for other federal missions, is of paramount importance. He said 20 years of deployments, training and modernization has equipped the guard to respond quickly to state or federal emergencies. 

“Over the last few years, the guard has supported the state in its COVID-19 response, it’s supported the state through a department of corrections mission, it’s supported the state with a gas outage that occurred in Charleston, West Virginia,” Applegate said. “And it supported the state both federally and through a state active duty mission to the border.”

Applegate said he believes the state’s National Guard is among the best in the country. 

“I am biased, but I tell you, I believe West Virginia is, if not the best National Guard, it’s right there on the cutting edge,” Applegate said. “And that’s because our service members get in there, they learn the mission, they volunteer for the mission and they bring those skills back to West Virginia.”