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Automatic budget cuts would hit military contractors on the First Coast

11:30 PM, Feb 20, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The automatic budget cuts set to kick in March 1st will have a big impact on the First Coast.

Not just for the military bases, but all of the civilian employees who contract with them.

"We're not a big corporate outfit," said Specialty Marine owner Mike Whalen.

Military action figures line the shelves of the shop in Mayport.

RELATED: Services lay out sweeping state-by-state spending cuts

For 24 years, Marine Corps Barbie has watched over a business owner Whalen thinks the government needs to take more seriously.

"I don't know what they think this is, or what kind of game they're playing, or what kind of circus they're running in Washington, but people's daily lives are being affected," he said.

Specialty Marine helps maintain the ships at Naval Station Mayport, and Whalen said the proposed cuts to military spending would devastate his business.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta released a statement Wednesday detailing furloughs and layoffs for civilians working on base.

"It's more than scary, it's people's livelihoods. People are losing their jobs today," he said.

Whalen knows of companies in Jacksonville already planning to close their doors because of the cuts, and he worries he'll have to downsize.

"We have never laid off anyone in 23 years, we'll probably go down to 3 or 4 folks. And I've never said that before today," he said.

RELATED: Navy paints even bleaker budget picture

With the deadline looming just days away, Whalen said it's the uncertainty that has everyone on edge.

"How can a government who cares about middle class America or small business go on vacation during a time when we are facing such a crisis as a country. Do you think they care about us if they go on vacation?" he said.

Congress is set to head back to Washington DC in 9 days to debate the cuts.

First Coast News

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