By: Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
GovConExec Magazine

Pending budget cuts raise national security—and economic—concerns.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned recently that the spending cuts the Pentagon is now absorbing will hit all 50 states. But many don’t understand how severely these cuts will be felt beyond the Beltway—and fewer still are working to prevent this damage.

The prime objective of defense spending must always be to provide for the national security. Yet such spending also translates into both jobs and economic impacts. The two massive tranches of defense cuts currently mandated by law will affect nearly every community, large and small, rich and poor. The first round of reductions, totaling $487 billion, is reflected in the current budget. Exactly where the second round—amounting to another $500 billion—will be cut remains to be seen.

It is safe to conclude, however, that such reductions will take a toll on states, localities, and enterprises across America, including small businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, and service-disabled veterans.

The “Defense Breakdown Economic Impact Reports,” a resource provided by the Center for Security Policy, has sized up the potential economic fallout of the full $987 billion cut. A few examples follow:

  • California could lose 125,789 jobs. Its economy could suffer $7.41 billion in lost earnings and a $10.79 billion decrease in Gross State Product.
  • In Arkansas, the corresponding impact could be 3,452 jobs, approximately $204 million in lost earnings and a decrease of $296 million in GSP.
  • And Virginia is slated to face the elimination of 22,770 jobs, a loss of $7.24 billion in earnings and $10.54 billion in GSP.

The Center’s analysis was performed for the Coalition for the Common Defense, a group of former senior military and civilian leaders (www.FortheCommon Information on sources, methodology and complete breakdowns by states are available through the link.

At a time when we are strenuously trying to create jobs, 100,000 active-duty military personnel are slated to lose theirs. By some estimates, more than one million additional defense sector employees will also be let go. These are generally well-paying, skilled positions—difficult to fill and near-impossible to bring back once they are gone. Even worse is the prospect that states, counties, and cities would have to absorb the impact of such reductions in the current economic environment.

National security-related jobs are a “win-win.” In providing for the common defense, they produce positive side effects, such as advancing technology, encouraging economic vitality, and supporting communities.

But one promising solution is the Down Payment to Protect National Security Act, introduced in both houses of Congress in February. This measure would fund the sequestration cuts for one year through means other than further reductions in the defense budget, thus allowing time for other approaches to be devised and adopted to reduce the deficit.

In the meantime, it behooves those responsible for the safety and prosperity of the American people to be aware that the harsh reductions in our defense capabilities now in the offing threaten both. Equipped with the information provided in the Defense Breakdown Reports, we hope our leaders and their constituents will take the steps needed to spare our country these losses.   GCE