Florida aerospace industry, lawmakers warn of significant job loss

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - There are fresh worries in the state's aerospace industry that increasingly bitter partisanship and election-year politics will make it unlikely for Congress to significantly cut the nation's deficit before January 2nd,  the day automatic, across-the-board cuts would be imposed on federal programs.

Last summer, Republicans and Democrats in Congress agreed to sequester if a bipartisan super committee couldn't agree on how to cut federal spending.

With $1 trillion in defense and domestic spending cuts over ten years looming, the aerospace industry said Florida stood to lose as many as 80,000 defense and defense-related jobs.

"The jobs lost will not just be in industry but rather on Main Street," said Dan Stohr, an Aerospace Industries Association spokesperson. "A lot of these small companies don't have the cash reserves to survive significant reductions in spending. So, they'll shut their businesses or move elsewhere if they have to."

On Wednesday, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, which has operations in South Florida, said future production of its F-35 Lightning II,  a next-generation fighter jet, was up in the air.

"With these budget cuts, and what we're facing, we don't know what that will mean directly for this program," said Gary Hentz, director of tactical aviation programs. "It concerns not only us but all of our suppliers. They have had to invest in people, infrastructure and equipment to meet that increased production rate. And, it's not materializing."

The cuts would reach beyond the nation's military.

An already hurting National Aeronautics and Space Administration would see new cuts.

The National Weather Service, which uses cutting-edge technology to forecast tornadoes, severe weather and hurricanes would also see cuts.

Airport delays were possible, political analysts said, with cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen project.

Medicare was expected to be cut by two percent.

In a letter to U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, Senator Bill Nelson said he would work with them on a solution.

"These automatic cuts are too big and would leave us, I believe, unprepared to deal with growing threats from other countries," Nelson wrote. "So, we need a common-sense solution that controls spending effectively throughout government."

Political analysts said nothing was expected to be resolved until after the presidential election.

Adding to the worry of a double-dip recession, they said, was the expiration of the so-called Bush-era tax cuts one day before the start of the automatic cuts.

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