Michael Collins

Ventura County Star

WASHINGTON — A study by a national security group suggests Ventura County could lose as much as $180 million in military contracts if the government follows through on plans for a series of defense cuts over the next decade.

Companies located in or doing business in the county received 2,437 defense contracts totaling $668 million in 2011. More than a quarter of those contracts could disappear under the proposed cuts, according to the study, “Defense Breakdown Economic Impact Reports” by the Center for Security Policy.

City and county officials say the loss of such jobs would be devastating to the local economy.

“It would be catastrophic if that was to happen,” Ventura County SupervisorJohn Zaragoza said.

In Washington, the specter of the cuts has touched off a vigorous debate in Congress over whether they should be allowed to go forward and what impact they will have on the military if they do take effect.

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, a Santa Clarita Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has been leading the charge to block cuts, arguing they would cripple a military that already is stretched thin by three years of cuts and 10 years of war.

The House voted in May to spare the military and shift the cuts to other domestic programs, such as Medicaid, food stamps and federal workers benefits. But that legislation stands no chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate. What’s more, President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any spending bill that does not include the spending cuts.

The cuts were set in motion last fall when a congressional “super committee” failed to agree upon a deficit reduction package, triggering automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Some $600 billion of those cuts are to come from defense.

Unless Congress acts, the first round of the cuts will kick in next January.

In addition, the Obama administration has ordered $450 billion more in military spending be slashed over the next decade.

This week, a nonprofit group that opposes the spending cuts issued a report that examined how states, counties and cities would be affected if the cuts are allowed to take effect.

The five hardest-hit states would be California, Virginia, Texas, Maryland and Florida, according to the report by the Washington-based Center for Security Policy.

“It doesn’t matter where you live — you are going to be affected by these cuts if they go through,” Steven Bucci, a defense analyst with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said during a briefing last week.

California alone could lose 160,765 jobs and nearly $12 billion in military contracts if the cuts take effect, according to the study.

The Ventura County area also would take a serious hit. Westlake Village would stand to lose $50 million in defense contracts; Ventura would lose $34 million; Camarillo would lose $24 million; and Oxnard would lose $22 million.

Naval Base Ventura County doesn’t yet know how it will be affected if the cuts take effect, spokeswoman Kimberly Gearhart said.

Funding issues for the base are handled out of a regional office in San Diego, Gearhart said.

“By the time we know what’s going on,” she said, “it’s our job to make it work.”

Zaragoza said the loss of defense contractors would be felt throughout the county.

“We need to assist those persons and those contractors to keep those jobs here,” he said. “They create work, whether they are military or civilian.”

Ventura Councilman Neal Andrews, who serves as the city’s liaison to the naval base, said $34 million would be a significant loss for the city’s economy.

But local officials have worked for years to bring in new commands to the naval base and believe they have successfully reinforced the role the base plays in the national defense system, Andrews said.

“They certainly perform a vital function with (missile) testing and evaluation,” he said. “Those are where many of the contracts are, and I think it’s unlikely we will see reductions in those areas.”

He added, “I’m confident everything that could be done has been done to ward off the worst scenarios.”

To view the entire report, go to http://forthecommondefense.org and click on the view the “reports” link.

This article can be read here: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2012/jun/09/study-suggests-proposed-military-cuts-could-hit/#ixzz1y9ab9n98