The automatic spending cuts looming for the federal budget would devastate Fairfax County, draining $8.7 billion from its economy and eliminating nearly 87,000 jobs, the county board was told Tuesday.
The $1 trillion in cuts -- half of which would come from the Pentagon -- are scheduled to begin in January unless Congress and the White House can strike a deficit-reduction deal by the end of the year. President Obama, in the final presidential debate Monday, said he doesn't expect the cuts to take effect, though no deal appears imminent.
Fairfax officials said they just want to be prepared should a deal fall through and the cuts kick in. Northern Virginia's economy relies heavily on federal spending, particularly on defense. But the fallout from steep Pentagon cuts would also hit in military-heavy Hampton Roads.
That dependence on government spending has allowed local communities to avoid the sharp drop in employment that hit other areas of the country during the recession. But the cuts that now loom for federal spending would hurt the local economy much more than they would hurt other states.
Stephen Fuller, a George Mason University economist, told Fairfax officials that the proposed cuts would immediately reduce federal spending by $4.6 billion, draining $8.7 billion from the county's economy and eliminating the jobs of 86,557 residents -- about 13 percent of the county's workforce.
"Virginia ought to really be worried," Fuller said. "No other region is as vulnerable as we are."