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Local Officials Sound A New Sequestration Alarm

Lewis Wallace

Dayton-area officials held a public meeting Tuesday about the effects of sequestration, or automatic federal spending cuts, on the local economy. They say the outlook is gloomy if sequestration continues into 2014.

“Survival mode” and “devastation” were just a couple of the phrases tossed out at the event.

“As this goes downhill, the next thing’s gonna go downhill, and we’re gonna be in a world of hurt,” said Greene County Commission Tom Koogler.

Basically, if sequestration continues into 2014, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will have to make new cuts on top of cuts already required by this year’s limited budget. Most civilian workers at Wright-Patt were furloughed for six unpaid days in 2013, and that was followed up by a nearly two-week government shutdown and more furloughs (although most of those were paid retroactively). Officials estimate each furlough day took $5 million out of the Dayton region’s economy.

If automatic spending cuts continue into 2014, the U.S. military is looking at around $20 billion in cuts beyond the $37 billion already enacted in 2013.

That could mean layoffs or furloughs, and it would almost definitely mean crumbling infrastructure and a continued hiring freeze on the base, said Colonel Cassie Barlow, who heads the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patt. She is already planning for 10 percent budget cuts in each coming year.

And she said the base has been experiencing what she called “brain drain”: well-trained civilian workers are leaving the Air Force at a record rate, during a hiring freeze.

“We don’t know exactly why people are leaving, but we can only assume it has to do with the reductions and the furloughs and sequestration,” she said.

“Everyone agrees that the money needs to be put back, it’s where to get it,” said Ohio U.S. Congressman Mike Turner (R-10th), who called the event. He voted against against the bill that authorized sequestration in 2011, although recently he raised some constituents’ hackles by voting along with House Republicans on the budget that shut down the federal government in order to demand changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Turner said a budget deal in Congress must bring back the Pentagon’s funding, but he was unsure where in the budget that money will come from.

Where the money will come from, of course, is the $20 billion question. The clock is ticking for Congress to reach a new spending deal by January 1, 2014.