Congressional Staff Hear of Community Impact of Defense Cuts

Communities, small businesses, contractors and military families are among those who will be affected by spending cuts scheduled to go into effect at the end of the week, according to a panel of experts and officials who briefed congressional staff Monday.

The briefing was organized by the Association of Defense Communities and co-hosted by Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.), who are re-forming the Defense Communities Caucus for the current Congress.

Craig Quigley, executive director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, outlined community examples of how planned cuts are already hurting communities and individuals, including:

  • a small business in Huntsville, Ala., that is laying off 200 of its landscaping and janitorial staff because of cuts at Redstone Arsenal;
  • lost hospitality-industry jobs and tax revenue in the communities near Fort Riley, Kan., because of strict DOD travel restrictions; and
  • single sailors and military families in Norfolk, Va., who scrambled to find new places to live after giving up homes and storing personal belongings in preparation for a deployment that was later delayed.

Many of the impacts of sequestration will take months to become apparent, according to David Berteau, senior vice president and director of the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“The cuts will go into effect March 1,” he told congressional staff. “By March 4, it won’t feel very different. Furloughs will start around April 1, and the impact will intensify in May, June, July. My fear is that [in the meantime] many of your bosses will say, ‘We took money out of DOD, and nothing happened. Let’s do it again.'”

John Conger, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, also addressed the approximately 75 attendees.

One attendee noted the cuts will return the defense budget to roughly the level it was in 2007, but Quigley said the concern is over how quickly the cuts will take effect.

“I liken it to losing weight,” Quigley said. “If you give me six months to lose weight, I’ll get there. If you give me one month, it’s going to be a heckuva struggle.”

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen

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