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Group Paints Grim Picture of Defense Cut Effects

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said she is dubious of the numbers, coming from a pro-defense group, but has expected D.C. would suffer economically from sequestration.

As lawmakers debate cuts in the defense budget from national security and deficit reduction perspectives, outside groups are pushing back from the viewpoint of local economies.

Washington, D.C., home to hundreds of defense contractors and a workforce that relies on the military, could be among those hardest hit.

Using publicly available data, the conservative Center for Security Policy and the Coalition for the Common Defense prepared reports for every state and the District of Columbia to paint a picture of how local businesses and jobs could be affected by plans to slash military spending in fiscal 2013 and beyond.

Obama’s proposed $613.9 billion defense budget for the upcoming fiscal year, unveiled Monday, would reduce funding from current levels for every major line item with the exception of operations and maintenance.

In the event that Congress cannot agree on other cost-saving legislation, $500 billion in automatic spending cuts to the defense budget, known as sequestration, would begin to go into effect early next year.

“A freight train is heading our way, and our hope is, at a minimum, people will start getting ready for it, and preparing communities for what will be a very, very substantial impact,” said Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy.

Gaffney’s organization found that more than 1,000 D.C. businesses earned about $1.84 billion in 2010 supporting the defense industry. Over the next 10 years, those businesses could see revenue losses of more than $166 million.

And should sequestration of the defense budget go into effect, D.C. defense businesses could lose more than $332 million, according to the group’s findings.

Combining these numbers with those in Northern Virginia and Maryland, where other defense contractors are based, the region could lose even more money and jobs, Gaffney said.

“The extent to which you see what’s going to happen as a region is really devastating. It probably has more of an accurate picture than if you’re looking at the District itself,” Gaffney said.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) told Roll Call that she is dubious of the numbers, coming from a pro-defense group, but not of their implications.

“I don’t have any reason to know where these figures came from,” she said, “but I have assumed all along that my district would lose jobs and other opportunities we’d otherwise have due to sequestration.”

Norton added, however, that if anything was going to put pressure on Congress to find an alternative to sequestration, it would be figures such as these.

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