By Chris Camire
Massachusetts could lose thousands of jobs under a U.S. Department of Defense downsizing plan, according to a new report commissioned by state officials fighting to preserve the state’s six major military bases.
The loss of these jobs would have major economic implications for Massachusetts and the nation, the report finds.
Massachusetts military installations employed 14,645 military and civilian personnel in fiscal 2011 and support another 31,900 jobs, according to the study by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute and MassDevelopment.
The state’s military personnel, most of whom live in Massachusetts, receive nearly $1.2 billion in salaries and benefits.
The report was commissioned by Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and members of a newly formed task force geared toward protecting military jobs that has been meeting in recent months to increase political pressure on President Barack Obama and Congress to avert the automatic, across-the-board cuts of $110 billion to defense and domestic programs on Jan. 2.
Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to the reductions last August as part of a deficit-cutting agreement. A special bipartisan congressional committee was tasked with producing a plan to cut spending by $1.2 trillion over 10 years, or automatic cuts would kick in.
Groups of senators have discussed possible alternatives, but critical players aren’t involved in the negotiations. A solution is unlikely before the November elections, leaving the issue to a lame-duck congressional session later this year.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office issued a new estimate that the potential sequester would require a $94 billion cut from day-to-day agency budgets funded through appropriations bills. That’s a modest $4 billion cut from its most recent estimate. More details are due when the CBO releases its new budget and deficit estimates later this month.
Massachusetts and the region have a lot at stake.
In fiscal 2011, Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford employed 3,628 people who received nearly $589 million in salaries. The report also found that the base is responsible for employing 2,200 contractors. The overall economic activity generated by the base exceeds $8.4 billion.
To protect Hanscom, state officials are making the case that the military’s future is in the high-tech weapons and communications systems produced at the Bedford facility.
Officials have argued Massachusetts is uniquely positioned to become a leader in emerging defense technologies, particularly cyber security, due to the many skilled students who graduate from such top universities as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
“We can position ourselves because of those intellectual assets and institutional assets,” said Murray after a tour of the base earlier this year. “If we can present those aggressively, there may be some opportunities for some strategic expansion and missions, as well.”
Devens, meanwhile, employed 1,895 people in fiscal 2011. Together they earned more than $98.6 million in salary and benefits, according to the report. The base is indirectly responsible for another 1,285 jobs and has an overall annual economic impact of $397 million.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.