San Antonio Express-News - June 25, 2012, By Gary Martin
WASHINGTON — The alarm is sounded. More than 1 million defense-related jobs — including 91,000 in Texas — could be lost if Congress fails to act on budget deals to forestall across-the-board cuts, Obama administration officials and lawmakers have warned.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cautioned lawmakers that national security would be threatened if Congress fails to reach agreement on spending cuts to avoid sequestration: deep cuts agreed to in last year's deficit reduction deal.
As the cuts loom, Democratic and Republican leaders have signaled that they will likely avoid making painful budget decisions until after the November election.
“It's like watching a train wreck,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Congress last August agreed to a deficit-reduction deal that included $492 billion in cuts for the Pentagon over a 10-year period.
Democrats and Republicans also agreed to let a “super committee” find additional savings. But the bipartisan panel failed, and without additional congressional action, sequestration will be triggered Jan. 2.
That would mean an additional $500 billion in Pentagon reductions.
The automatic cuts would mean the elimination of more than 1 million full-time defense-related jobs, according to a study by Stephen Fuller at George Mason University in Virginia.
The study found that while the automatic cuts would affect defense spending in all 50 states, 10 states would account for 58.5 percent of job and income losses.
Texas is listed third for potential job losses, 91,000, and for lost income, $5.4 billion. It trails California, with 126,000 jobs and $7.4 billion in lost income, and Virginia, with 123,000 jobs lost and $7.3 billion lost.
“Many employers, including those in Texas, will have to look at laying off their employees,” Cornyn said.
Because of federal labor laws, defense contractors could begin notifying employees this summer about the possibility of layoffs in January.
Despite job loss projections, Cornyn and other Texas officials said it was premature to know exactly where eliminations would occur and whether the automatic cuts would mean a reduction in civilian jobs and military installations.
Texas has the largest number of active-duty military personnel, at 131,548, according to the Census Bureau. And the state has the third-largest number of Defense Department civilian employees, 48,057.
Also unknown is whether lawmakers would target military projects in annual spending bills now moving through Congress.
Lone Star State military installations are slated to receive nearly $450 million for construction projects next year, including ongoing work at San Antonio and El Paso hospitals, in spending bills under consideration in the House and Senate.
The lion's share of the money for Texas bases would be spent at Fort Bliss in El Paso, with $207 million designated for continued construction of a hospital there.
The House also has approved a Pentagon request for $80 million for ongoing construction of a replacement facility for Wilford Hall Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
The Office of Management and Budget has told lawmakers that the projects could be vulnerable to cuts to achieve deficit-reduction goals.
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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.