Sequestration will mean furloughs — unpaid days off — for federal workers across the country, and Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County will certainly feel the pain. The base is home to 21,100 civilian employees at 26 Department of Defense agencies, including the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Washington Headquarters Services and the U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command.
"The assumption is that the offices and units will continue to operate on a full schedule, and supervisors and commanders are still looking at priorities, and also what can be put off to tomorrow," said Don Carr, Fort Belvoir spokesman. "Because what you can't do today is something that may have to be done tomorrow."
What will be the impact of sequestration at Fort Belvoir?
"I don't think anyone can tell you the exact impacts," said Carr, who has been in the civil service for 20 years. "That's too speculative. But maybe now is not a good time for me to think about buying that new car, because I don't know what the future holds because I'll only be working 32 hours a week instead of 40. The individual now has to take an assessment of how it will impact them personally."
About 800,000 Department of Defense employees will be subject to the furloughs, and there are eight days left until sequestration - billions in automatic, across-the-board defense cuts - kick in on March 1.
Unless Congress comes to an agreement on $1.2 trillion in debt reduction by March 1, the U.S. military will cut $46 billion and domestic defense spending will be cut by $85 billion this year. Furloughs would start in mid-April, since federal employees must be given a 30-day notification.
Congress will allow the sequestration process to begin, according to a new study by Wells Fargo.
"It is likely that a deal will be reached to offset some spending cuts with tax increases or closing loopholes but, in general, we do not expect the magnitude of spending cuts to be significantly reduced," according to the study. "We still expect some moderate impact on state economies from the pullback in government spending in the short term, as agencies hold off on major spending commitments and put hiring on hold. The magnitude of the impact will be left to policymakers."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta released this statement Wednesday to DoD personnel:
"We are doing everything possible to limit the worst effects on DoD personnel - but I regret that our flexibility within the law is extremely limited. The president has used his legal authority to exempt military personnel funding from sequestration, but we have no legal authority to exempt civilian personnel funding from reductions. As a result, should sequestration occur and continue for a substantial period, DoD will be forced to place the vast majority of its civilian workforce on administrative furlough."
The furloughs would affect the air travel industry. The Federal Aviation Administration "is going to face a cut of roughly $600 million under sequester," said Danny Werfel of the Office of Management and Budget at a Senate hearing last week, according to NPR. "A vast majority of their 47,000 employees will be furloughed for one day per pay period for the rest of the year, and, as importantly, this is going to reduce air traffic levels across the country, causing delays and disruptions for all travelers."
On Monday, members of Virginia's congressional delegation — Rep. James P. Moran (D-8th), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) will join air travel association and employee organizations at a press conference at Ronald Reagan National Airport.
Members of Virginia's congressional delegation sounded the alarm last week to Capitol Hill and President Obama. "The consequences of a failure to avert sequestration will ripple through all parts of our state economy and could lead to a hollow military force and a government unable to adequately respond to the needs of its citizens," according to a letter sent to congressional leadership and the White House last week from Moran, Connolly, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) and Senators Kaine and Mark Warner (D).