WORCESTER T&G: Pending defense cuts could cost Mass. 30,000-40,000 jobs
As originally appearing in The Worcester Telegram & Gazette


BOSTON —  The state could lose 30,000 to 40,000 jobs over the next several years because of pending cuts in defense spending.

These job losses are in addition to losses from military spending cuts already taking place, according a state task force.

The funding problem was outlined by Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray, as the state’s Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force issued a report detailing how dependent the state’s economy has become on military spending — and laid out strategies to protect that spending.

A study by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts released by the task force today, found that the state’s six military bases support more than 45,000 jobs, and pump $13.7 billion into the state economy each year.

The report also found that Massachusetts got $13.9 billion in defense and homeland security contracts last year, and that much of the contract activity involves developing advanced technologies for defense and homeland security.

“In every region of the commonwealth, there are critical jobs that support our military bases and defense industry, and we cannot afford to overlook the value of these jobs,” said Mr. Murray, chairman of the task force.

Another member of the task force, James T. Brett, president of the New England Council, said he expects Congress will put off any base closing legislation for several years. But, he said, the deep spending cuts that will impact defense contractors in the state and military missions at its bases, at this point, can only be lessened if Congress agrees to replace some of the pending defense cuts with reductions in entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Meanwhile, another study from the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass Amherst found that federal spending cuts in non-defense areas will cost Massachusetts even more jobs than cuts in military spending.

“The defense sector is simply an ineffective jobs creator compared to education, healthcare, construction or clean energy,” which are other key industry sectors in the state, said Heidi Garrett-Peltier, lead researcher of that study.

Chris Anderson, president of the Defense Technology Initiative, a group that advocates for defense industries in the state and a member of the task force, said the state will not escape huge economic impacts from the pending cuts.

A budget bill passed by Congress last year, he said, will force $487 million in defense spending cuts over 10 years, starting next year. As part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling last summer, a plan to cut another $1.2 trillion in federal spending to reduce the deficit would automatically cut another $600 million in defense spending unless Congress modifies the reductions, to shift the cuts elsewhere.

“In Massachusetts, it is 30,000 to 40,000 jobs just for the additional defense department reductions as a result of sequestration,” Mr. Anderson said. “There has already been a nearly $500 billion, 10-year budget cut that started last summer, when Congress authorized a ten-year reduction. It’s already having an impact on jobs, throughout the supply chain and starting at the top with some of the larger employers.

“It’s the next 40,000 to 30,000 jobs in Massachusetts that are at risk if sequestration goes without change,” he said.

Mr. Anderson predicted sequestration will likely get changed along the way, because of its impact on national security. “Eventually we will see some bipartisan congressional response, because the impact on national security by just reducing line items by an arbitrary 20 percent will hurt our ability to defend, not only the nation, but also to defend and protect the soldier where he or she is deployed, and diminish our ability to defend ourselves against cyber attack,” he said.

Mr. Murray said coordinated political strategies are already in play, with state business and political leaders talking to Pentagon officials, and working with members of Congress here and from around New England to blunt the impact of the defense cuts.

Mr. Murray said the first phase of the task force’s efforts have focused on analyzing how much is spent at the state’s military installations, and understanding how they are interdependent on each other, even though they have different missions.

Work at the Natick Army Soldier Labs and at Hanscom Air Force Base on cyber security, advanced weapons, high-precision manufacturing, and general research and development, which are areas of expected growth, are all part of the case the state can make to retain military operations, he said.

Mr. Murray recalled the broad impact the closing of Fort Devens in Ayer had on North Worcester County in 1996, and said each of the existing bases also spin off private sector support and business operations.

He said the Donahue Institute — which conducted the study in part with state economic development funding — added up the payrolls, research and development, procurement and construction at the six bases, and found they directly support 45,000 jobs and $13.7 billion in economic activity each year. He said that is far larger than previously understood, while other task force members said it has grown by more than 80 percent since 2003.

The study found the overall economic impact from the bases were: $8.44 billion at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, $4.4 billion at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, $405 million at the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod, $126 million at the Barnes Air National Guard base in Westfield, and $393 million at the Westover Air Force Reserve base in Chicopee.

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