- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Let’s not sugarcoat this. Unless Congress acts in the coming weeks to stave off deep cuts to the military budget, the impact on Southern Maryland will be severe.
Beginning in April, the income of civilian workers at Patuxent River Naval Air Station could be cut by 20 percent, as they may be ordered to take one unpaid furlough day each week for up to 22 weeks. The military contractor workforce could be reduced, which means people will lose their jobs.
These are not rumors or wild speculation. They are actions that were described last week as imminent possibilities as military commands could face billions in budget cuts this year.
If these things occur, they may bring belt-tightening and hard times to thousands of families who live in Southern Maryland. And they will bring challenges and changes to the rest of the community.
It’s possible that the most drastic consequences will be averted at the last minute, if Congress acts to divert sequestration — severe, automatic budget cuts are due to kick in March 1.
It’s going to be a tough and tumultuous spring and summer for many in the area unless there is a comprehensive budget agreement in Congress. Again, such a last-minute agreement is still possible. But let’s face it: Congress has a recent track record of lurching from crisis to crisis, dimming hopes for a rational long-term compromise now.
And so many Southern Marylanders might have to adjust to a new reality. Our community, so heavily reliant on federal spending, was spared the worst impacts of the recession that began nearly five years ago. Now, it may face a time of austerity and restructuring, as other communities and industries throughout the country already have.
Many families are facing economic worries and uncertainty. But the community can withstand this. The tri-counties — Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s — have among the highest median family incomes in the nation; that ranking may slip, but the military installations here will remain here, performing work vital to the nation’s defense.
The region’s leaders have advised people not to panic. Panic would be unproductive and useless.
But everyone, in nearly every household and business, may have to square their shoulders and adjust to economic uncertainty. And those whose incomes are not immediately at risk must watch out for those who may be bearing the worst of these changes, over which they have no control.