As Sequestration Nears, Local Communities Sound Alarm

Jun 13, 2012
Defense Drumbeat

As the devastating impacts of sequestration grow nearer, two stories in the New York Times and Politico over the weekend described local communities growing anxious and urging lawmakers to act quickly to resolve sequestration. 

The New York Times followed a recent trip through South Carolina by Senator Lindsey Graham, where he heard from local residents on the impact of sequestration. 

“On Jan. 2, national security is set to receive a heavy blow if Congress fails to intervene. That is when a 10-year, $600 billion, across-the-board spending cut is to hit the Pentagon, equal to roughly 8 percent of its current budget…

“‘I’m personally offended that they’re playing a high-stakes game of chicken with our national defense,’ fumed Weston Newton, chairman of the Beaufort County Council, after hearing [Senator] Graham’s dire warnings. 

“Eugene R. Baten, chairman of the Sumter County Council, told the senator of the one-cent sales tax increase that helped finance a land purchase to protect Shaw from encroaching development. ‘We have sacrificed as a community,’ he said. ‘But we can’t do it alone. I’m not saying it’s the Democrats’ fault. I’m not saying it’s the Republicans’ fault. It’s both of y’all’s fault.’” 

Citing defense budget expert Todd Harrison, the story pushed back against some who have claimed sequestration is not as dire as most experts have claimed. 

“On its face, the automatic cuts do not sound that bad. If they are put into effect, military spending would decline to its 2007 level, said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. But really it is worse than that. The law exempts war costs and allows the administration to wall off personnel levels and military pay, about a third of the Pentagon budget. That means everything else — operations and maintenance, research and development, procurement, fuel, military construction — would face immediate cuts as deep as 13 percent, Mr. Harrison said.” 

Politico’s story featured similar accounts of local angst over defense cuts. 

“Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) agrees with Republicans on at least this point: that these cuts would be cataclysmic.

“Scott, whose district includes the defense-rich Hampton Roads area, spoke of a recent standing-room-only meeting at which local officials and defense contractors lined up to detail the consequences to municipal coffers and local manufacturers that build aircraft carriers and submarines. 

“‘The defense sequester would be so devastating to the defense of our nation that it is hard to imagine thoughtful legislators actually allowing it to happen,’ said Scott… 

“The jobs impact is clear. An October 2011 study from George Mason University showed that the planned cuts, combined with defense reductions already set to go into place, would cause more than 1 million job losses across the nation in just one year. California…would lose the most jobs of any state, with 125,800 in projected job losses, according to the analysis. 

“Another vulnerable state is Virginia, a key swing state, where 122,800 jobs could disappear. Florida would be hit hard with nearly 40,000 in job losses, the study said. The majority of jobs lost would come not directly from defense but from businesses that are reliant on the robust military presence in these local communities — think mom and pop restaurants, beauty shops and convenience stores.”

112th Congress