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Spending cuts could cause civilian furloughs and lost contracts at Cherry Point

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HAVELOCK, N.C. -

Military communities are bracing for impact. A week from Friday, billions of dollars in spending cuts are set to roll out for the Pentagon, causing potential disruptions to military bases in our area.

Half a trillion dollars would be cut from the military over the next 10 years if Congress doesn't act by March 1. The automatic spending cuts are known as sequestration.

"The feeling I get from Cherry Point is one of anxiety," said Marc Finlayson, a consultant for advocacy group Allies for Cherry Point's Tomorrow (ACT).

He and Governor Pat McCrory say the biggest impact the cuts would have on Cherry Point is not on its Marines, but on its civilian employees.

"Of course, the basic budget allows only non personnel operating cuts, which will really hit the civilians in and around Fayetteville, Jacksonville, North Carolina," said Gov. McCrory on MSNBC Friday.

Finlayson says all 5,000 civilian employees at Cherry Point could be furloughed one day a week for up to 22 weeks. Most of those employees work for the aircraft maintenance depot FRC East, which Finlayson says is the largest private employer east of I-95.

"You could see that effect cascade through the local economy because without 20% of your pay, you're going to have a lot less discretionary money to spend on things like eating out or going to movies," he said.

The spending cuts could also mean Cherry Point cutting back on services. Finlayson says Cherry Point spends tens of millions of dollars in private contractors for things like construction, remodeling, and maintenance.

"As of April 1, if sequestration happens, we don't anticipate new contacts being signed," he said.

According to the Havelock Chamber of Commerce, Cherry Point has a $2 billion impact on eastern North Carolina, an impact that's likely to diminish if the automatic spending cuts take place.

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