- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Massive federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, are slated to go into effect today, and employees at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and nearby Webster Field are bracing for the impact.
So are those whose work supports activities at the Navy facilities in St. Mary’s County.
Military contracting firms already are looking at ways to cut spending, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) said earlier this week. They “don’t have confidence” that they’ll have the money to pay their employees to do work that is needed for national security and defense, he said.
Legislators say sequestration was never supposed to happen. Congress set up the spending reductions believing that the threat of severe, across-the-board cuts would force them to responsibly craft a plan to reduce government spending. For months, Democrats and Republicans argued about whether a solution should be reached through increasing taxes and cutting spending, or cutting spending alone. Lately, legislators have been blaming one another for the fallout.
With hours to go Thursday before the March 1 sequestration deadline, Congress hadn’t reached an agreement, although legislators can at any time act to replace the sequester with another budget plan.
“I don’t think any of us are too surprised that tomorrow is the 1 March deadline to address Sequestration and nothing has happened to come up with a thoughtful and reasonable approach to address our national deficit and still maintain our national security readiness,” Glen Ives, president of the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance and past commanding officer at Pax River, said in an email.
“Most military commands and defense industry companies have been bracing for this worst-case scenario,” he said. “A great deal of planning has occurred but most of that planning has been based upon many uncertainties and unknowns. Those uncertainties and unknowns are still there but things will become much more clear in the next few weeks.”
It’s “very tough” for everyday citizens to have faith in government now, Hoyer acknowledged. “People expect it to work.”
Legislators and employers expect that if the budget cuts — totaling about $84 billion from the federal budget this year alone — go into effect, the impact may be minimal for the first two weeks, but intensify as salaries and spending are reduced. “It won’t be overnight, but it will be soon,” Hoyer said.
There’s also a nagging concern about a resolution that keeps the government operating at 2012 spending levels as Congress tries to pass a budget.
Members of the military do not face pay cuts. But amid all the uncertainty, federal employees are trying to meet the needs of the sailors and Marines they support, and soon may have less money to do their jobs, smaller paychecks and fewer hours in their work weeks.
To offer support, Patuxent River Naval Air Station is planning a seminar “Managing Your Finances and Stress During a Possible Furlough” March 6 and March 21.
“We are deeply concerned about the negative effects the furlough will have to our employees’ morale, as well as the effectiveness of our valued civilian workforce,” said Capt. Ted Mills, commanding officer at Pax River, said in a statement. He’s warning that support services could be reduced with a furlough. But, Mills said, “we are reviewing options such as alternating furlough days to minimize the impact.”
The Naval Air Systems Command, based at Pax River, issued a statement saying “the specific impacts on the NAVAIR mission and workforce are not yet known.” If sequestration occurs, according to the statement, NAVAIR will begin “detailed planning related to workload adjustments and personnel impacts,” in accordance with instructions from the Navy and the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management.