Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > Michigan Matters: A Look at the Vital Defense Industry

Michigan Matters: A Look at the Vital Defense Industry

November 8, 2023

The Michigan defense industry is critical, as it contributes more than $31 billion to Michigan’s economy each year. Tammy J. Carnrike, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army and Chief Operating Officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, was featured on CBS Detroit’s “Michigan Matters” to discuss what opportunities there are to grow this sector and what challenges may arise.

Carnrike was also joined by Alissa Roath, Chief Executive Officer of the National Advanced Mobility Consortium, and Mark Hackel, Macomb County Executive.

Watch the full episode here, and read more about Michigan’s defense industry in the Detroit Free Press article below.

Detroit Free Press
Nov. 11, 2023
Carol Cain

It’s an industry that contributes $31 billion to the economy here yet most folks don’t hear much about it, even though its presence is felt economically across all 83 counties, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The defense industry is also a vital part of our state’s past: We became known as the Arsenal of Democracy during World War II when our auto plants were quickly transformed to make bombers and more for the war effort. Our future is also tied to growing our defense sector as folks I talked to mentioned Michigan is perfectly positioned with its engineering and advanced manufacturing might, as well as its penchant for innovation.

“Michigan is where the automotive industry got its start,” said Mark Ignash, interim executive director of the Michigan Defense Center and senior sector development director and defense adviser to the MEDC. “More than 100 years later, it’s still the global center and nexus of commercial automotive, electrification and military technology.”

Michigan is home to some of the country’s largest ground vehicle defense companies, such as General Dynamics Land Systems, BAE Systems, GE Aviation and more, he added. Statewide, there are 4,000 companies in the defense, aerospace and homeland security sectors and thousands of jobs tied to them, according to the MEDC.

“This is an industry that is important but seems to fly under the radar as many are not aware of everything that the DoD (Department of Defense) procures, as well as just how many businesses are engaged in the supply base,” Ignash said.

He added: “The defense industry is everything under the sun, from defense land systems to enabling technologies such as AI to aerospace to homeland security and everything else that needs to be procured to sustain our national defense.”

A few interesting stats he shared:

  • Michigan has 4,000 defense suppliers in the state.
  • The state has $6.6 billion in defense contracts.
  • There are 155,000 defense industry related jobs here.

In southeast Michigan, we hear once in awhile about Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township. There’s been talk again about Selfridge’s future with the aging A-10 fighter jet housed there and 5,000-plus jobs connected to it.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Michigan lawmakers are urging the U.S. Air Force to consider buying more of the new F-15EX Eagle II fighter aircraft to boost odds of them being sent to Selfridge to replace the A-10 when it is retired in a few years.

“Selfridge is our hometown airbase and we are proud of the work of the military and civilian personnel at the base who support the current and future missions,” said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.

“Collectively, we are making the right steps to secure a future fighter force mission that will ensure Selfridge remains a critical asset in our nation’s defense.”

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Chief Operating Officer Tammy Carnrike shake hands at the Pentagon

Photo credit: U.S. Army

Tammy Carnrike, Chief Operating Officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, is also civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army Michigan South. She’s been focused on helping grow our defense sector for nearly two decades.

“When I first arrived and learned about what was U.S. Army TACOM at the time, I was very interested in the work they were doing and the economic impact to the region and state,” Carnrike said. “Shortly after, the U. S. Army went through a base realignment examination and there was concern that we could lose potential jobs and procurement advantage.”

The Detroit Arsenal, home to TACOM headquarters, is the only active-duty U.S. military installation in the state of Michigan. She said the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command located in Warren on the Detroit Arsenal, manages the Army’s ground equipment supply chain, about 60% of the Army’s total equipment.

“If a soldier drives it, shoots it, wears it … TACOM sustains it,” Carnrike said.

“The entire country looks to Michigan for its engineering, manufacturing, and research and development talent and expertise to solve the defense industry’s toughest challenges,” she said.

As civilian aide to the secretary, her role is “essential to the Army’s ability to connect by helping to build partnerships and strengthening relationships in their communities.”

The National Advanced Mobility Consortium (NAMC) is a nonprofit started in 2008, headquartered in Ann Arbor with an office in Sterling Heights. Its membership consists of nearly 500 organizations and businesses bringing cutting-edge advanced mobility technologies to the Department of Defense. NAMC acts as a bridge between the government and the defense industry.

The consortium was awarded the Detroit Arsenal Innovation Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) managed by the United States Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Ground Vehicle Systems Center, located at the Detroit Arsenal. This contracting mechanism authorizes NAMC to facilitate prototype projects in a variety of areas through its expansive member base. Projects under the OTA are focused on enhancing technology, systems and materials for the Department of Defense and the United States Armed Forces.

Members join NAMC for access to opportunities to deliver capabilities to DoD priority efforts. This award gives an opportunity for diversification for Michigan companies. For example, companies with commercial technologies from the automotive/racing industries are able to apply their tech to defense vehicles and needs.

“The DAI OTA is a tool of innovation,” said Alissa Roath, NAMC’s executive director. “With an emphasis on autonomy, connectivity, cybersecurity and more, this award aligns with NAMC’s mission to provide cutting-edge solutions to our armed forces.“

Roath said up to 25% of NAMC members could gain new business as a result of the award.

“There has been much accomplished in the last several years to place a higher priority on promoting the defense industry and the opportunities that exist in Michigan,” said Carnrike. “From Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to economic development organizations, defense industry associations and county governments.”

Carnrike’s hoping that industry, government, organizations and others work closer together to take advantage of that momentum.

“The challenge will be getting everyone aligned and working toward one strategic effort,” Carnrike added.