The Pentagon identified areas last week where it will look to cut spending if the country goes off the fiscal cliff. So far, it’s too vague to say what might happen at the Rock Island Arsenal.
But even without specifics, economic development leaders and retired military officials say a smaller defense footprint would leave a mark here.
“There is going to be an impact,” said retired Maj. Gen. Yves Fontaine, a former top Arsenal commander who runs a consulting firm.
Officials say they have not yet been told how smaller budgets might affect them. Rhys Fullerlove, a spokesman for the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, said the center will “focus on today’s requirements with the resources we are given.”
Eric Cramer, the garrison spokesman, referred a reporter’s questions up the chain of command.
Still, even without specifics, if less money is being spent on planes, trucks and other equipment, it isn’t a stretch to see that it would have a ripple effect — on units that do spare parts work and on contract managers who oversee the production and sustainment of military equipment.
That is the kind of work that happens at the Arsenal, where about 7,500 people work. It is one of the Quad-City area’s largest employers.
Fontaine said defense cuts would likely go to programs before trims are made to civilian personnel. If those do come, early retirement offers and extended hiring freezes would happen before reductions in force, or RIFs — a phrase that conjures up unpleasant memories of the late 1990s.
Fontaine said RIFs, as they are called, are a last resort.
“I don’t think we’re there yet,” he added.
The talk of automatic cuts comes as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wind down, something that carries the potential for downsizing from war-related employment peaks.
This year’s $55 billion in Pentagon cuts are the first of what would amount to more than $500 billion military-wide over 10 years.
It’s not just the Arsenal that has a stake in military spending in the Quad-Cities. Across the area, $1.7 billion in military contracts have gone to more than 500 area companies over the past decade, said Paul Rumler, executive vice president of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s not a minor piece of this economy,” he added.
The area’s gross metropolitan product totals more than $17 billion annually.