Sequestration would have ripple effect into Lowcountry

Sonya Stevens sat down with Mark Gadomski of the Charleston Defense Contractors Association to talk about local effects of the sequestration (Source: Josh Braunreuther/WCIV)

By Sonya

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The sequestration continues to be a hot topic as the March 1 deadline looms. While these mandatory cuts to federal programs would happen at a national level, there would be impacts felt here in the Lowcountry.

Mark Gadomski is not only the president of the Charleston Defense Contractors Association but he is also the senior vice president for a defense contractor, so he feels strongly that something needs to be done.

"Right now, national defense is more important than ever and if sequestration goes into effect then{}(the Department of Defense){}budget takes an unprecedented extreme cuts that are not in line with the national priorities," said Gadomski.

In a memo from Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert, he tells U.S. Naval Budget Submitting Office personnel that the Navy alone will face an additional $4 billion reduction in operation and maintenance for the 2013 fiscal year.

That means they will have to find a way to cut $4 billion from their budget from March 1 until the next fical year starting October 1.

The Charleston Defense Contractors Association wrote letters to encourage lawmakers to take action.

"We talked about impact that sequestration would have, the fact that cuts were made with a chainsaw and not done intelligently," said Gadomski.

The letter details just how involved Charleston is with{}the Armed Forces. According to Gadomski, more than 250 companies support local defense and government agencies. Those companies are responsible for 10 percent of the Metro Charleston economy. Nearly 33,000 people work in the local defense industry and if the sequestration happens, Gadomski says more than 4,000 people could lose their jobs in the Charleston area.

"I hate to be pessimistic and I think Charleston has the ability to be innovative and think outside of the box and certainly our reputation for providing needed products to the war fighter is first rate," said Gadomski. "I don't think we are going to give up. It's certainly going to mean a step backwards but we are going to look for opportunities to enhance the capability of the war fighter and do what is right."

In both Greenert's memo and in a report made by the Pentagon to Congress on Wednesday, one of the ways to cut spending is to shorten the workweek for the majority of the Defense Department's 800,000 civilian workers.

They would lose one day of work per week, or 20 percent of their pay, for up to 22 weeks, probably starting in late April. The furloughs would save $4 billion to $5 billion if extended through the end of the budget year, Sept. 30.

Greenert's memo also states that as of February 15, the Navy canceled "repair and modernization" of all piers, runways, buildings, barracks and other facilities on USN bases around the world, with the exception of repairs needed for safety and security.

And Gadomski also says that the threat is even keeping some companies in a holding pattern.

"Several small businesses who were poised to move to Charleston and to open offices have decided to take a wait-and-see attitude," said Gadomski. "They have invested some resources to win multiple war contracts and now they are doing a wait-and-see whether they can invest additional resources to actually establish a presence here in Charleston."

Charleston, an area rich in defense contractors, that is in a waiting game like the rest of the country until March 1.

Analysts estimate as many as 700,000 people nationwide could be laid off as a result of the sequestration.

*Sandra Ecklund contributed to this report