By Will Weissert
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Automatic government spending cuts could see military operations across Texas lose at least $1.7 billion before the end of the fiscal year, the U.S. Defense Department said late Friday.
In a letter to Gov. Rick Perry obtained by The Associated Press, the department said that no deal in Congress to stave off $85 billion in federal budget reductions means $41 billion will evaporate from the Defense Department budget by Sept. 30.
That means the Army would lose $233 million in base operations funding across Texas, including cuts at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Killeen’s Fort Hood and Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, the department said. But Army weapons depot operations in Red River and Corpus Christi may lose far more than that — with reductions totaling as much as $1.4 billion.
The cuts may also cost the Air Force $92 million statewide, with reductions hitting facilities at San Antonio’s Lackland and Randolph bases, as well as Sheppard Air Force Base near Texas’ border with Oklahoma.
All told, that’s an estimated impact $1.725 billion.
Perry spokesman Josh Havens responded that “this is the result of President Obama’s refusal to work with Congress to find ways to responsibly rein in the federal government’s spending habits.”
“Instead of taking the easy way out by arbitrarily cutting areas like national defense,” Havens said, “there need to be thoughtful, efficient and common sense spending cuts to begin balancing the federal budget.”
The letter said Navy and Marine Corps. operations in Texas will also face reductions, though no dollar amount as officials are still assessing the full impact. The letter was signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter.
Not included in the direct funding losses to operations were that the Defense Department’s 52,000 civilian employees in Texas would be forced to take 22 days of unpaid furloughs. The letter noted that, “almost certainly, this unfortunate action has already had serious adverse effects on the morale and productivity” of such workers.
The department estimated that the furloughs would cost employees roughly 20 percent of their salaries in the next seven months, and could result in $291 million in lost wages statewide.
The letter also said the cuts will “affect Defense contractors and, therefore, the industrial base in your State,” but did not speculate on how much that could cost.
Federal officials issued letters Friday to the top 10 states facing the most civilian furloughs. Texas is the second hardest-hit, behind only Virginia and followed by Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, California, Alabama and Washington.
Letters to the other 40 states are scheduled to be released in coming weeks.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.