When Northrop Grumman moved its headquarters to Falls Church more than a year ago, Robert Foster moved with his job from California.
He had heard jobs inside the Beltway were pretty safe, but with the threat of billions of dollars in federal cuts coming March 1 if Congress doesn't quit its squabbling and reach a budget compromise, Foster is already cutting his personal spending.
He is not buying as much clothing. He is eating out less. The new car he wanted will just have to wait.
So, the retail stores don't have his business, the restaurants where he eats suffer, the dealership where he would have taken his business keeps another unsold car on its lot.
“I think everyone in harm's way is trying to spend a little less,” Foster said Thursday.
In Virginia, a lot of people are in harm's way.
By most estimates, sequestration 2013 — the mostly indiscriminate slashing of federal spending if a budget deal isn't reached — could cost government-slathered Virginia more than 207,000 jobs. The state is home to nearly 300,000 federal employees and thousands more who work for government contractors.
George Mason University estimates that nearly 10 percent of the 2.1 million jobs that would be cut nationwide under sequestration would come from Virginia.
Earlier this month, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner told a group things could be worse that they could imagine if sequestration goes into effect. Junior Sen. Tim Kaine, who joined Warner in Reston earlier this month, talked about the short-term and long-term impact of the potential $1.2 trillion cuts in federal spending.
Half of that would affect the defense industry.
On just one short strip in Virginia -- Fairview Park Drive in Falls Church -- defense contractors General Dynamics, DynCorp International and Northrop Grumman employ scores of workers.
With March 1 approaching, Foster said he has emailed Congressman Jim Moran, whose 8th District is home to 70,000 federal workers, to express his concerns about sequestration. Foster said he urged Moran to speak out for those who would be affected and make sure sequestration doesn’t happen. With his plan to cut back on discretionary spending at home, Foster said he will be OK but that others may not.
“People that are potentially impacted need to contact their representatives so they know we are real people,” Foster said.
Moran said he has received thousands of emails, calls, and letters from residents in his district – that also covers part of Falls Church – whom are concerned about the impending sequestration. The congressman said Northern Virginians have reason to be worried about sequestration.
“If it occurs, our local economy will be one of the hardest hit in the country. Sequestration is a punishment, not a policy,” Moran said in an emailed response to Falls Church Patch on Thursday. “I voted against the Budget Control Act that created sequestration. There is a smart way to reduce our nation’s deficit, but it requires targeted spending cuts as well as increased revenues.”
Randy Belote, vice president of Strategic Communications for Northrop Grumman, said the company would not speculate on how workers may be impacted.
He said Northrop Grumman, like other defense contractors, are concerned about sequestration’s negative consequences for national security, the defense industrial base and its shareholders and employees.
That doesn't make Foster feel any better. The George Mason study estimates 136,191 Virginia jobs would be lost due to defense cuts and another 71,380 jobs in this state would vanish thanks to non-defense cuts. Virginia could also look forward to a $20.8 billion loss in gross state product.
Foster said he can only control what he does with his own finances and he is trying to keep a positive outlook on the situation. If sequestration happens, he said it would be a shock to the economy.
“This will be interesting to see,” he said. “Let’s hope that they come to their senses and avoid it.”
You can find more articles from this ongoing series, “Dispatches: The Changing American Dream” from across the country at The Huffington Post.
Keep up with Falls Church news and events with the Patch email newsletter. Learn more here!