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Gov. Scott, defense leaders worry about Pentagon cuts at BCC roundtable

Dr. Richey, Gov. Scott, and Chmn. Landman

BCC President, Dr. Jim Richey, Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos participate in the governor's Aug. 2 roundtable with leaders from Florida's defense industry at the Simpkins Fine Arts Center on the Cocoa Campus.

Aug. 2, 2012 - Meeting with leaders of Florida's defense industry, Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday the possibility of a 10 percent cut in the non-personnel portion of the nation's military budget would have a significant impact on the state.

The discussions took place during a Defense Contractor Roundtable that Scott held at the Simpkins Fine Arts Center on Brevard Community College's Cocoa Campus.

Scott, Florida Senate President Sen. Mike Haridolopos and the 14 industry leaders who participated were welcomed to the College by its President, Dr. Jim Richey.

Richey noted the defense industry's "vital importance to our state and our community" and said BCC was proud to host the event.

The meeting came amid a stalemate in Washington over a $1.2 trillion federal deficit reduction package.

If Congress and the White House cannot come to an agreement by Jan. 2, automatic program cuts would take place, including deep reductions in Pentagon spending.

The defense industry maintains the 10 percent cut would seriously hurt Florida's economy. Scott said there are nearly 700,000 direct and indirect defense-related workers, 2,500 defense companies and 20 military bases in the state.

The result could be the loss of 80,000 jobs statewide, Scott said.

Earlier in the day, Scott announced a $5 million state contribution to a project under which the Navy will upgrade its missile testing facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station starting this fall.

The project is expected to create 100 federal jobs with average annual salaries of about $90,000.

However, the focus of Thursday's meeting at BCC was on the looming defense cuts.

"Hopefully, the Congress and the president will understand how significant this is and take some action," Scott said.

To that end, Scott distributed a letter he sent to Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, urging them to take action to avoid the estimated $500 billion in defense cuts.

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BCC President, Dr. Jim Richey, and Alan Landman, chair of the BCC Board of Trustees, meet with Gov. Rick Scott during his visit to Brevard County.

Robert M. Williams, vice president and program manager for War Fight Support Services, which is part of Raytheon Technical Services Company, told Scott the proposed cuts have forced his company to delay hiring.

"I have to posture the company for what might be more than a significant event, a disaster as the secretary of defense has described," Williams said.

"I feel it in my customer base and their timidity to put work forward on contract. When I say my customer base I am talking about DOD (Department of Defense) customers. They quite frankly are also posturing for what they see as a significant cut."

Carl D'Alessandro, vice president of advanced programs and technology for Melbourne-based Harris Corp., expressed concern about the company's 6,000 local employees, most of whom work on federal government contracts.

"We all lived through some painful times with what happened at the space center," he said. "Not only are we concerned with the direct impact sequestration would have to the Department of Defense, but also the impact that general budget cuts could have through the rest of the budget."