Arizona government contractor talks about sequester uncertainty

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Automatic federal spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect Friday. That could mean thousands of jobs lost in Arizona. On Monday, President Obama asked governors, including Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, to call their members of Congress and force a deal.

"Get this settled,” Brewer told 3TV from Washington, D.C. "Get a budget out there and do what's right for our country so the states can do what's right for their constituents."

Brewer and other Republicans don’t support adding taxes to the rich. She wants the White House to compromise on spending cuts.

Few would argue against the federal government getting its financial house in order, but one local government contractor tells 3TV fear of these reductions started cutting into projects and employees almost a year ago.

When NASA launched a satellite to explore the planet Mercury in 2004, a group of engineers working for Kinetx Aerospace were calculating the navigation.

"The errors on these is zero," said CEO Glenn Williamson with a hint of pride. "You have to have zero or a $700 million spacecraft goes poof."

Williamson's company continues to bid for millions in government contracts, but he said business started drying up months ago with just the threat of sequestration.

"When you're a small company like Kinetx and you've got a team of really bright engineers ready to work but we don't have the work, we try to keep those here as long as we can before we let people go, because at a certain point the economics a company can't exist," he said.

Kinetx is on a long list of Arizona government contractors desperately trying to find other work in the private sector to diversify. The budget cuts scheduled for March 1 add a level of desperation for the smallest of companies.
A George Mason University study estimated Arizona could lose 35,000 jobs because of sequestration.

Sen. John McCain spoke about the cuts during every town hall meeting he held last week.

“We are talking furloughs of civil workers,” McCain said Feb. 20. “We're talking about restrictions of flight hours, we're talking about very serious consequences.”

But other law makers say this first cut of $85 billion is a good place to start on the way to a balanced budget. Former Rep. Ben Quayle said he expects it to happen. While it's not a perfect way to cut spending, he only sees short-term pain.

“The problem I see with the defense cuts are they are arbitrary,” Quayle told 3TV. “They're to every program, they're across the board. There are some areas of defense spending we can make some cuts and we need to do that.”

These cuts will affect mostly people it seems, not bases or buildings. The Border Patrol is planning on furloughs and reduced training. People working at sea-ports are also expected to take unpaid leave amounting to a 20 percent cut in pay. And word came Friday of cuts to TSA and air traffic controllers that could complicate air travel.

Williamson supports federal budget cuts, but he said arbitrarily slicing out 10 percent is bad business.

“It's a blunt instrument to a problem that needs to be addressed,” Williamson said. "The consequences of doing this in an uncoordinated fashion are very dangerous. And my fear is it will happen."