D.C. Beltway to take big hits from automatic cuts

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — To get a sense of just how much federal government spending influences the Washington metropolitan area, all you have to do is listen to the ads on an all-news radio station there.

Instead of promoting happy hours and nightclubs, WTOP’s commercials are replete with buzzwords about cloud computing and fulfilling mission statements — pitches by IT consultants and contractors trying to land business with federal agencies.

Communities on the Capital Beltway have disproportionately benefited from the federal government’s growth for decades — and there is no doubt they will now take a disproportionate hit from the budget cuts.

The federal government is the region’s largest single employer and an economic engine. Thousands of federal government workers for agencies as varied as the CIA and the Patent and Trademark Office make their home in the area — about 15 percent of the total federal workforce, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Office of Personnel Management.

So do those who labor for the scores of private contractors in the region that live and die off federal dollars.

The exact effect of the automatic budget cuts is, of course, difficult to predict with any precision.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are bracing themselves for unpaid furloughs. But the greatest pain from the cuts is likely to be felt not by the civilian military workforce, but employees for the region’s numerous private firms.

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