Major Pentagon Cuts Worry State Officials

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 (UPI) — With hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon spending cuts looming, states heavily dependent on military jobs say they’re worried.

Military programs have been targeted for at least $350 billion in cuts over a decade as part of the debt-reduction deal, and $600 billion more could be cut if the congressional supercommittee doesn’t agree on other areas to cut, Stateline.org reports.

The online publication says officials from Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, Virginia and other states with a large military presence hope to avoid defense cuts that could lead to loss of jobs.

Virginia, for example, fought back when the Pentagon proposed a year ago eliminating the Joint Forces Command in southeastern Virginia. Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it relied too much on outside contractors and that its purpose, training troops, had been largely fulfilled.

But Virginia leaders worried about losing an installation with an annual operating budget of $838 million and 5,700 civilians, contractors and military members in Norfolk and Suffolk. And after the leaders met with Gates last November, the White House announced in January that while the installation would be eliminated, about half its budget and employees would be retrained in southeastern Virginia.

Heavy reliance on military spending could lead to some states supporting entitlement cuts or loss of other state aid they would otherwise oppose to avoid huge automatic military cuts, Stateline.org says.

“From a Maryland perspective, the best solution would be adjustments made to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Anirban Basu, an economist with the Sage Policy Group, a private consulting firm, told The Baltimore Sun. “That would spread the pain of those adjustments across the country and not just disproportionately impact Maryland’s economy.”

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